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L.A. County sheriff to supervise MTA security guards

As part of its security reorganization, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority loses two executives. The move follows complaints that some guards improperly detained, pushed or struck commuters.

August 07, 2009|Richard Winton

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have reorganized their security operations and given the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department the responsibility of supervising transit security guards, officials said Thursday.

The move to transfer supervision of the security officers from MTA executives to the Sheriff's Department follows complaints that some guards have improperly detained, pushed or struck commuters. As a result of the reorganization, two MTA executives lost their jobs.

MTA spokesman Marc Littman said the agency eliminated the positions of Jack Eckles, deputy executive officer in charge of safety and security, and Dan Cowden, MTA security director.

Neither Eckles nor Cowden could be reached for comment.

In May, The Times reported that over the last two years there have been at least 11 investigations into transit security officers accused of mistreating people.

Some of the incidents had been captured on surveillance cameras, prompting sheriff's officials to warn the MTA that some guards were abusing their authority.

Earlier this year, a guard who was accused of attacking a "near comatose and intoxicated" man without provocation at a downtown subway station, was convicted of battery and filing a false police report.

MTA security guards protect the agency's property and revenues. They carry guns, batons and pepper spray, but they are not legally authorized to act as law enforcement officers.

About two years ago they began to operate separately from the Sheriff's Department, which provides sworn deputies to patrol the buses and rails.

In an Aug. 3 memo to MTA employees and sheriff's personnel, MTA Chief Executive Arthur Leahy said that he decided to turn supervision of the guards over to the Sheriff's Department to create a "unified command structure."

Paul Taylor, MTA deputy chief executive, will manage MTA security, with the Sheriff's Department "assuming responsibility for day-to-day operations control" of the guards, Leahy wrote in his memo.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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