MTA Board Delays Decision on Sheriff's Policing Pact

Times Staff Writer

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board has delayed until February a decision on whether to turn over policing of its rail and bus system to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The MTA staff had recommended that the Sheriff's Department get the contract, taking over what is now a joint operation with the Los Angeles Police Department. Projections suggest the transit agency could save more than $21 million in the first three years of a five-year contract.

The board deadlocked on the matter Thursday, with six members in favor of the recommendation, four opposed and one abstaining. Two were not at the meeting. Seven votes are needed for approval.

Opposing were Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and his three appointees to the MTA board. Hahn has said that, if the LAPD is not involved in MTA policing, security will suffer. He also is worried about the city's loss of the contract because that would cause a nearly $30-million shortfall in the city budget.

Hahn said he plans to introduce an alternative proposal next month in which the MTA would phase out use of the LAPD and Sheriff's Department over three years while building its own security force. Under that plan, Hahn said, LAPD officers and sheriff's deputies now assigned to the transit system would return to street-level police work.

Until 1997, the MTA had its own force of about 300 officers, which oversaw the Red Line subway and MTA buses.

That unit was dissolved, and many of its officers were blended into the LAPD and Sheriff's Department.

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