Los Angeles Transit Policing: History, Legislation, Resources

Metro and its predecessor transit agencies have a long and complex history of transit policing.

Our predecessor agencies, Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD : 1964-1993), Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Agency (LAMTA : 1958-1964), Metropolitan Coach Lines (MCL : 1953-1958), and Pacific Electric Railway (PE : 1911-1953) had a security department of special agents and patrolmen who conducted undercover and other surveillance policing work to enforce laws, rules, fares, etc.

They functioned as the main liaison to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for crimes that required arrests. Before 1958, transit operators were private companies with zero tolerance for fare evasion because they were private companies with no tax subsidies, operating 100 percent from farebox revenues.

There was a longstanding, almost 100 year old relationship between transit agency seuciryt departments and LAPD for ensuring safety and security on the transit system, bus and rail.

Crime rates took a significant upward turn in Los Angeles during the late 1960s. In 1968, the first transit operator was murdered while in service during a robbery aboard an SCRTD bus. The Exact Change fare policy went into effect after that. SCRTD took additional steps in the late 1970s — early 1980s to change the legal status of their Security Department’s Special Agents to armed peace officer transit police, and sent everyone to the required training courses to earn it.

In August 1976, the SCRTD Board voted to pursue peace officer status for its agents.

In 1980, SCRTD worked with Rio Hondo College to put all of its Security Department Special Agents through the full 15 week training courses required to confer peace officer status to its security force.

Republican businessman Richard Riordan was elected Mayor in 1993, which also put him on the Metro Board of Directors. While campaigning, he promised to add 1,000 new officers to LAPD.

The City of Los Angeles was experiencing fiscal shortfalls at the time, so Mayor Riordan went looking for alternative ways to fulfill his campaign promise.  He worked to get the agreement of the County Supervisors to disband the existing Metro Transit Police, sending half to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and half to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and then have Metro contract back for transit policing services.

The five supervisors and the Mayor plus his three appointees made up a majority of the Board, so that’s what they did.

An anonymous transit police office has written this history of that period. The two policing agencies ironically called this a “merger” and have since renewed these contracts.

In April 1995, Metro’s Executive Management Committee voted to support AB1478 (Martinez) that would have placed San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA : 1999- ) Police Department and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART : 1972- ) in the same section of California Law as BART as other municipal police departments. However, when it came before the Metro Board of Directors, it was voted down.

Later in 1995, Metro CEO Franklin White bought this issue up again in a December report, so perhaps AB1478 died in committee because the board voted to oppose it.

Penal Code Section 830 et al, includes transit district police with the rest of the police forces, but down in 830.33, not the desired 830.1, with additional information here.

We cannot be sure what all the distinctions are between being listed under penal code 830.1 versus 830.33, other than what is recorded in the Metro Board of Directors minutes from April 1994 (Item 47), under Chief Papa’s concerns. CEO Franklin White brought up Section 830.1 again in December 1995.


February 1981: Article in SCRTD Headway employee news magazine titled “Undercover cops on buses arrest nearly 700”

1983: Technical Report: Crime Impact Analysis of SCRTD Metro Rail Project

1989: Peer Review Panel Report of SCRTD Transit Police

1992: The final Metro Transit Police Collective Bargaining Agreement:

1992: SCRTD Transit 2000 TV series. SCRTD Transit Police episode with Sharon Papa and other transit police officer interviews about their jobs, their patrol beats, and how they understand transit culture and our patrons.

“RTD Transit Police, Episode 6, part 3”

1996-1997: The undoing of Metro’s own Police department can be found in this Board report and this Board report, as well as these meeting minutes.

One can compare the 1997 costs in the reports above with the current (2016) contract.

2003-2004: Effort to re-establish our own police force. Additional information is found in this Metro Board item and in these Metro Board meeting minutes, and this subsequent Metro Board receive and file item.

2019: Former Metro Police Chief Sharon Papa retires. She was one of just a handful of women transit police chiefs nationwide at the time.  She initially moved on to LAPD, and later became the Hermosa Beach Chief of Police.