Policy Changed After Study Finds Racial Bias In Metro Transit Policing

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Metro Transit Officer Tosses Draon Armstrong To Ground

Ilham Ismael

Metro Transit Officer Tosses Draon Armstrong To Ground

Metro Transit will now warn instead of ticket people the first time they don’t pay their fare. The change comes after a Metro Transit study of data by the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union found police are more likely to ticket instead of warn African American and Native American people when they don’t pay their fare.

The policing racial disparity was thrust into the public eye this past July when Metro Transit officer Daniel Wallace threw Draon Armstrong to the ground while arresting him for not paying a $1.75 train fare. That arrest was captured on video and sparked the Minneapolis NAACP to call for an investigation.

When the arrest video came to light, Professor Jason Sole, chair of the Minneapolis NAACP Criminal Justice Reform Committee said the problem with Metro Transit police is not limited to this incident.

“I’ve been going to Metro Transit for a number of years, and I say years, telling them to fix what their officers are doing and they just shrug it off.”

Sole has witnessed the problem firsthand. “Even last year, they threatened me with arrest as I stood up for 15 African-Americans who were being threatened and intimidated with officers who had on black gloves and holding zip ties threatening to arrest 15 African-Americans. We’re sick of this, we’re tired of it.”

Study backs up NAACP

The Metro Transit study showed that Sole was correct. Black adults are 26 percent more likely to be cited rather than warned compared with white adults. Native American adults are estimated to be 152 percent more likely to be cited rather than warned compared to white adults.

“This study tells me that we have a problem,” Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said in a press release. “We are taking immediate action to address it. I want our communities to understand that I know our officers are at their best when they act as guardians for all of our riders.”

Harrington has directed all officers to follow a policy of issuing warnings to all people on their first encounter with fare evasion. In addition, the Minneapolis-based Council on Crime and Justice is conducting a comprehensive examination of the Metro Transit Police policies and procedures and will recommend improvements to ensure racial equity in MTPD policing practices.

Metro Transit also says it will work with community leaders to plan a series of meetings where community members and leaders can share their experiences and offer suggestions for needed changes.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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