Metro Transit reviewing policies following report revealing racial disparities in citations

Metro Transit is reviewing its policies and procedures following an analysis of data showing racial disparities in tickets issued to riders for fare evasion.

Native American riders are 152 percent more likely to be ticketed for failing to pay for trips rather than warned compared to white riders, and black riders are 26 percent more likely to get citations than whites.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb said the study “demonstrates a clear and compelling need” to investigate practices leading to the disparities.

“These disparities cannot be ignored and we must hold ourselves accountable. It is important that we work in partnership with our community to come to a deeper understanding of these statistics and how we improve our policing practices,” he said.

Native Americans and blacks were also more likely to be arrested or ticketed for low-level offenses by Metro Transit police.

“This study tells me that we have a problem,” Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said. “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.”

Metro Transit Police has several efforts underway designed to address the disparities, including officer training to treat people with disabilities equitably and impartial policing classes. Metro Transit is also reviewing best practices among transit-oriented police forces around the country and working to recruit a more diverse force, officials said.

The Minneapolis NAACP has been working with the Metropolitan Council and Metro Transit Police Departments on the reforms.

The organization issued a statement Friday: “We are encouraged that Metro Transit accepts responsibility for their stark racial disparities in enforcement and is committed to addressing these inequities and injustices. Issuing warnings rather than tickets to first-time fare evaders is a positive step, as is conducting disabilities training for officers.”

Much work remains, however, to ensure officer accountability, the organization noted.

“Metro Transit Police Department is an extra layer of law enforcement and if their policies and procedures don’t change, Minnesota will remain a state that is unlivable for people of color,” said Minneapolis NAACP Criminal Justice Reform Chair Jason Sole.