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Cop Dragging Incident on Red Line Reminds Us That Riders Should Just Fend For Ourselves

No one is short of an opinion after watching a viral social video of citizen journalism showing 18-year-old Bethany Renee Nava being dragged forcibly by a LAPD officer on the Red Line for putting her feet up on a seat one week ago, on Monday, January 22nd.

After watching the video the first time, I got on social media and shared, sarcastically, how the LAPD’s increased presence on Metro trains is making me pine for the days when I relied on public transportation as my primary mode of travel.

A day later, I went on a Twitter rant to go deeper into the issue of Metro passengers failing to talk to each other and instead calling the police. Random people clapped back at me, trying to argue that it was all Bethany’s fault and the police were just doing their job.

I've come to the realization that all these people 👇🏾 saying that they should b arrested for not listening to cops/breaking the rules are the problem. They are the kind of people to call the cops rather than interacting with fellow passengers.

— Erick Huerta (@ElRandomHero) January 24, 2018

It was hard to re-watch the video because of how visceral it is to see a white male police officer try to manhandle an eighteen year old female. It reminded me a little of all the other videos I’ve seen in the last couple of years of police officers killing black men.

The public court of social media has made their decision on what happened, how it should have been handled, and who is in the right. As a result, the Los Angeles Police Department came out and said a use-of-force investigation is underway on the incident.

Metro CEO Phil Washington also released a statement o, that had to be reworded because they were too harsh on the police in their first statement, as reported by Sahra Sulaiman on Streetsblog LA. “The investigation is underway to gather all the facts, and until we have the complete story, we must not rush to judgment,” the revised statement said.

Maybe they should invest on working class riders than trying to convert car drivers to take the train, but hey, what do I know?

Here’s how I see it. As long as Metro, the LAPD, The Long Beach Police Department, and Sheriff’s Department continue with their “broken windows” policing policy on trains and buses, everyone is going to continue seeing more incidents like this.

Metro and the sheriffs department are already getting sued by the Labor/Community Strategy Center for civil rights violations alleging that African American riders were ticketed at higher rates than all other riders.

So what’s the solution? Depends who you ask, but in my opinion the solution is us, the riders. I say that loosely because as of more than a year ago, I stopped being a Metro rider after buying a car.

Now I’m Driving

I’m not alone, per the L.A. Times, ridership is down on Metro to the point that the agency is feeling the impact.

Maybe they should invest on working class riders than trying to convert car drivers to take the train, but hey, what do I know? I’ve only been using public transportation all my life.

I don’t have any kind of degrees that would elevate my opinion beyond that of any other random person ranting on social media. But it speaks volumes when our elected officials, as one said recently, don’t feel safe enough to ride public transportation because of rampant sexual harassment.

When I say that the solution to these problems is riders, I say it because police shouldn’t be tasked with babysitting passenger’s on public transportation. I fully understand that police have their place in monitoring crime and fair evasions on Metro. I learned that firsthand when I was 13 years old and I got my first citation for not paying for my train fare and my parents had to pay the citation.

Over the years, I’ve seen violent shit go down on buses and trains at any given time and the police are never around to do something about it. Every once in a while, they are there to take action. But when it counts, you only see police during rush hour as they check your tap card fare, and create traffic for everyone trying to catch the next bus and/or train.

This isn’t a responsibility that shouldn’t fully fall on Metro bus drivers and train conductors either. They’re out here making sure everyone doesn’t die and may not immediately pay attention to someone in the back smoking a blunt or playing their music too loud.

Sure, once in a while, you catch them on a bad day or at the end of their shift, and they will not hesitate to pull that bus over, kick you outta the bus and/or call the cops to handle the situation. They deal with enough shit as it is that Metro’s policy to report anything going on in a train or a bus sometimes falls on deaf ears before things take a turn for the worst.

It’s Up to Us

The solution to these quality of life issues have to come from us, the riders.

Anyone whose a regular Metro rider can go down the list of shit other people do to make their commute annoying, frustrating, and life threatening. Be it from man-spreading, people putting their feet up on seats, to people who come onboard to trains with their bicycle and block the entrance. But when is the last time anyone asked a fellow passenger to stop doing what they’re doing and be considerate of other passengers?

And it didn’t result in a fight with other passengers yelling Worldstar while recording it on their phone so they can upload it to YouTube.

How far out on a limb would I go when I someone sexually harassing another passenger in front of me?

There is a time and place to let the police handle things, especially when it comes to sexual harassment and passenger violence. If someone has their bags on the seat next to them on a crowded rush hour train, ask them to move their shit so someone can sit down. Easy.

Chances are they might not listen to you, but to call the cops on someone for something that annoying? That’s where the line is drawn for me. In this specific case, from the looks of the video, it seems like the officer was just making his rounds when saw Bethany with her feet up on the seat and he enforced Metro’s Code of Conduct policies.

And I get it, that’s his job, but in all my years of police interaction, I fully understand when an officer wants to chastise you for not following the rules or assert their authority because you mouthed off to them.  Everyone carries something personal with them when riding the trains and buses, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs to project that toxic shit onto other passengers.

I’m abled bodied and understand that whenever I’m on a crowded train or bus, I do the courteous thing and offer up my seat to others who ask for it or when I see someone in need of being able to sit down. At the same time though, I mind my business, listen to my music, and stay outta the way of folks who are looking to start a fight because of whatever is going on in their personal life. I avoid them because I’m low-key profiling folks as they board the train or the bus, I’m not gonna deny that. But eventually they’ll find someone they can take their frustrations out on or worse, sexually assault a passenger.

That’s when I ask myself, how far out on a limb would I go when I someone sexually harassing another passenger or a violent confrontation is taking place in front of me?

In those situations, Metro policy is to alert the train conductor or the bus driver of what is going on so they can asses the situation and call the police if needed. But tense situations like that always escalate dangerously before Metro staff or the police can do anything about it, so am I going to be a good samaritan and put myself in danger to help out a fellow passenger?

As Angelenos, we have to find our way and not call the cops on each other for putting our feet on seats, for starters.

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