WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - A plan to temporarily ban anyone arrested on Metro for a sex offense or weapons charge is facing criticism from the ACLU.
Metro Police say there has been an increase in sex offenses. For example, 89 incidents of indecent exposure were reported in the first six months of this year--more than double the number during the same period in 2019. Now, Metro Police want the power to ban passengers who are suspected of sex crimes for up to a year.
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The Metro Board of Directors Safety and Operations Committee approved the proposal to suspend access to Metrorail and Metrobus for those arrested for sex and weapons-related offenses on the system on Thursday. The full Board is expected to vote on the proposal at an upcoming meeting.
Currently, those arrested on Metro for sex or weapons-related charges are often released on the same day pending a court date.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld tells FOX 5 it would filter out repeat offenders and boost safety confidence in passengers.
"You can imagine that if a bus operator has someone who does an indecent exposure," Wiedefeld said. "The next day that person could be on the same bus and that bus driver’s there alone and if it’s a female bus operator or something like that, it’s a terrible experience and we want to try to do something about it."
While Metro says it’s a move to increase safety, critics say they have concerns about how it will be enforced. The ACLU calls this a massive overreach of police power that could lead to racial profiling.
The ACLU says banning people accused of a crime, goes against U.S. legal practice that people are considered innocent until proven guilty.
The head of ACLU’s DC chapter tells FOX 5 that Metro Police haven’t produced evidence the ban would make Metro any safer, and they’re worried about police enacting ‘stop and frisk’ practices by which they say could target Black and brown people.
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"In our criminal legal system people are innocent until proven guilty and so if they vote for this WMATA’s un-elected board proposes to reverse this presumption of innocence and punish people based on accusations alone," said Monica Hopkins with the ACLU of D.C.
If approved, first-time sex or firearm offenders would be banned for two weeks for a first offense, 30 days for a second offense, and one year for a third offense.
If an individual on suspension is stopped by an MTPD officer in the system, they would be arrested for trespassing.
Suspensions could be appealed in five days. It’s not clear what happens if charges are dropped or if a person is found not guilty.
Transit agencies around the country have implemented similar rules, such as LA Metro, San Francisco’s BART, Dallas's DART and Atlanta’s MARTA.