One member of the Regional Transportation District’s board of directors will introduce a resolution at Tuesday night’s board meeting calling for an end to the agency’s contracts with police officers and security personnel.
Acknowledging the “historical trauma and harm that some communities have experienced at the hands of police and security personnel,” the resolution from District B director Shontel M. Lewis would give direction to RTD to reduce its number of security officers through Allied Universal and to terminate contracts with off-duty police officers in local jurisdictions.
“[T]ransit security officers should be accompanied by mental health professionals on as many constituent interactions as possible,” the resolution continues, proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.”
Since racial justice protests erupted worldwide following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, “defund the police” has become a slogan for some demonstrators seeking an end to brutality. While not a fully-detailed proposal, Black Lives Matter in calling for defunding demands “investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive.”
In Minneapolis, where multiple City Council members have endorsed dismantling the police department, booing protesters prompted Mayor Jacob Frey to leave a rally after he announced his opposition. In Denver, there are local elected officials seeking an end to Denver Public Schools' contracts for school resource officers.
Senate Bill 217, the sweeping police reform bill making its way through the legislature, only contains one “defunding” mechanism — if agencies fail to report the data mandated in the legislation. Otherwise, the bill imposes costs on police departments, namely to equip officers with body-worn cameras.
Lewis’s resolution intends for mental health professionals to respond to calls for service in conjunction with security. In addition to policing the system, Allied Universal’s employees also assist customers and inspect fares. The security personnel must be graduates of a law enforcement or military police training program.
“I’m sure RTD’s customers and operators want to feel all security personnel are properly trained and ready to appropriately respond to any foreseeable situation, from a spontaneous protest to an equipment malfunction to a customer experiencing a physical or emotional crisis to a customer needing directions,” said Director Jeff Walker, District D, on the notion of redirecting security funds.