Metro Transit police have hands tied by management, can’t respond to crime fast enough

The problem actually lies with Met Council management and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), a source said.

Metro Transit Blue Line light rail (Facebook/Metropolitan Council)

Metro Transit police officers want to do their duty in helping the public, but their “hands are tied” by Metropolitan Council management, a person familiar with the situation told Alpha News.

Alpha News recently obtained crime statistics for Metro Transit’s light rail, showing more than 3,000 crimes were recorded in 2020 despite a huge drop in ridership.

A source with firsthand knowledge of the matter, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, told Alpha News that while light rail has seen an increase in crime over the past few years, Metro officers have spent more time “away from the light rail.”

Much of the blame is placed on the Metro Transit Police Department, but the problem actually lies with Met Council management and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the source said.

“If any bus driver or train operator feels disrespected or scared in any way, their union comes hard at Metro Transit,” the source said. “That forces them to tell the police department, ‘you’re no longer doing patrol. You’re going to sit at these terminals and just stand there and wait and wait and clear trains.’”

It appears the ATU has so much power over Metro Transit that the agency prioritizes operators and drivers over the safety of the general public, the source suggested.

Instead of “being proactive at all,” Metro Transit forces officers to stand guard at stations at either end of the line — the Target Field and Union Depot stations specifically — in order to “sweep” the trains for homeless people and sleepers. Since light rail operators have to leave their cabs to get to the other side of the train at either end of the route, the first and last stations are when they feel the most exposed.

A light rail station in downtown Minneapolis at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. (Metro Transit/Facebook)

Randomly checking trains or proactively stopping trains is no longer something Metro officers regularly do, the source said.

“Criminals aren’t dumb,” the source continued, so they will commit crimes at stations in the middle of a route, like the Nicollet or Capitol/Rice stations, where they know police will not be present or able to quickly respond to calls.

“That’s purely reactive at that time,” the source told Alpha News. “[The officers] can only go so far with the tools they’re given from their management.”

The source knows of officers who would spend six to seven hours of a 10-hour day shift standing at Target Field, “checking every train that comes in for sleepers or things that aren’t really enforceable.”

“I’m seeing officers that are just great officers who want to leave just because it’s horrible. It’s not being a cop, it’s not helping people … it’s not what policing should be,” the source said.

The source also shed light on the lack of transparency from the Met Council, an unelected body that oversees Metro Transit and whose members are appointed by the governor.

“I don’t know if it’s because it’s a unique police department where they don’t have to [be transparent]. It’s almost like it’s a private police department because it’s not run by a city where you have all these laws in place about accountability and transparency with the council.”

Since no one on the Met Council is elected, like city council members would be, there is no “desire or need to be transparent,” the source said.

Crime statistics are not available in a public database or report, but must be requested through Met Council employees, for example.

While those statistics do account for crimes responded to by Metro Transit police, they do not accurately reflect all crime that has occurred on the light rail or at Metro Transit stations. When the Minneapolis Police Department responds to a call or takes over a case, that crime is reported in MPD’s data, not Metro Transit’s, according to the source.

For example, a homicide that occurred at the Midtown light rail station in Minneapolis in December does not appear on the 2020 crime statistics Alpha News obtained from the Met Council. MPD responded to that call, so Metro Transit stats do not reflect the fact that a homicide did indeed occur on a light rail platform in 2020.

Of crimes that happen on the light rail, the source said, “There’s no way they can capture them all.”