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Readers React: Recent Metro train incident is exactly the kind of transit policing readers want

The Metro Red Line Civic Center subway station in downtown Los Angeles.
( Los Angeles Times)

As a daily Metro bus rider, I confess to relishing the rare moments when a transit scofflaw is called out for littering, eating or “manspreading” (I’m 6-foot-4, so if I can squeeze into one narrow seat with my belongings, so can you, skinny teenager).

Still, I was troubled by the video of an 18-year-old woman being forcibly removed from a Red Line train after she persistently refused a police officer’s request to take her feet off a seat — both because it’s disturbing to watch any young person get manhandled by a cop, and because of the woman’s flagrant disregard of the rules meant to keep public property in good working order.

But to the Los Angeles Times’ letter writers, only the woman’s behavior is problematic — and it isn’t close. As of this writing, not a single reader has expressed great concern about the officer’s actions; in fact, nearly all the letter writers have applauded him for carrying out Metro’s seldom-enforced rules.

In his initial statement on the incident, Metro Chief Executive Phil Washington said, “This is not the kind of policing I want in our system.” But it appears to be exactly the kind of policing our readers want.

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Mark Benoit of Long Beach bemoans the “Wild West” atmosphere on public transit:

I wholeheartedly support the action of the Los Angeles Police Department sergeant who was videotaped forcibly removing a young woman from a Metro Red Line train. I would probably ride the trains more frequently if I saw the rules being enforced effectively.

It is like the Wild West on those trains. Loud music is almost a given. Drinking alcoholic beverages is common. Passengers shout taunts or insults, frequently vulgar, across the cars at one another. Someone who has the temerity to look at an offender gets a menacing stare in return.

Should we deploy a team of psychologists and mediators to make troublemakers want to obey the rules they disdain?

Mariana Bension, Los Angeles

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Putting one’s feet on a seat may seem like a minor thing, but it is one of the rules passengers agree to obey when they ride transit. Witnessing frequent violations of those rules makes a law-abiding traveler feel insecure, to say the least.

Los Angeles resident Mariana Bension wonders what “deescalation strategies” the officer’s critics have in mind:

Perhaps the Times Editorial Board, which criticized the police officer, can enlighten us on what other “deescalation strategies” could be applied in these situations.

Should we deploy a team of psychologists and mediators to make troublemakers want to obey the rules they disdain? Perhaps we can give them Amazon vouchers to get them to behave. How about also offering them tickets to Disneyland?

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This editorial promotes the sad cupcake culture that doesn’t hold people accountable for flouting the rules that benefit us all. Officers have a hard job to do, and unless we’re dealing with cases of unjustified police violence, we should just let them do it.

Shari O’Connell of Long Beach says it’s the officer who deserves an apology:

This woman was not removed from the train because she put her feet up on the seat; she was removed because she failed to comply with the commands of the police officer.

First, he asked her to take her feet down and she refused. He then asked her to get off the train, and again she refused.

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What should the officer be expected to do? Tell her to have a good day and walk away? This young woman needs to learn to respect authority and take responsibility for her own actions. An apology to the police officer is also in order.

Mary Flanagan of Los Angeles compares the police officer to an exasperated parent:

I am a Metro rider and find it not always a pleasant experience due to the boorish behavior of some riders.

This incident did not appear to be just someone displaying rude behavior; rather it was more like a tantrum thrown by a 2-year-old. The police reaction was similar to an exasperated parent who was attempting to remove this “child” from the scene. It was not pretty to watch.

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I sympathize with the officer as I would with any parent who has to contend with an out-of-control toddler. Reading the Metro chief’s apology for this incident just added to my disgust, as the seats are dirty, people who should know better take over multiple seats, trash is everywhere, and when the police are called in to enforce the rules, Metro does not support them.

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