Heather Lee Defends Transit Police

September 10, 2013

The following letter ran in the Langley Times on Wednesday, September 4, 2013

“Transit police are not glorified ‘fare takers'”

Editor: Re: Transit Police are overpaid fare takers, (The Times, Aug. 20).

It is unfortunate that your paper has made transit police a scapegoat for the bigger issues at TransLink, and amplified the misinformation perpetuated by Jordan Bateman.

Independent reviews such as the 2012 VPD Operational Review of Transit Police have all found that transit police provide good value for what they’re paid (actually less than Vancouver, Victoria and Abbotsford). They have the same training and qualifications as municipal police forces, and are subject to the same complaints processes.

The fact is that the cost of policing per transit passenger boarding has remained unchanged since 2008. More importantly, transit police play a pivotal role keeping the system safe for passengers.

Saying that the officers “have few responsibilities” is patently untrue. Transit police do investigate crimes on the bus system and would like very much to expand their work there.

The limits on that, quite frankly, are of TransLink’s making, not of the transit police.

Even so, last year transit police opened 18,255 files and had a higher-than- average clearance rate.

A 2013 University of the Fraser Valley study found that transit police fare enforcement duties enabled them to arrest hundreds of offenderswith outstanding warrants. The report stated: “for the most part, these individuals were recidivist, serious, chronic offenders who were at-large in the community.”

Recently, transit police arrested a man for performing an indecent act near a New Westminster daycare centre. Pushing for a system without transit police is, frankly, dangerous.

Ultimately, the real problem lies with the province’s unwillingness to grasp the issue of TransLink funding. The region’s transit needs are growing far beyond what paltry savings could come from salaries.

But instead of showing leadership and working towards meaningful, sustainable funding solutions, the provincial government is choosing to pass the buck with a nebulous, ill-conceived referendum on funding.

Heather Lee, Vice-President, Combined Units,
Canadian Office and Professional Employees union, local 378