Sound off on WMATA bag searches tonight
Tonight, the WMATA Riders' Advisory Council is holding a public meeting to discuss the controversial bag search program launched without public discussion in December.
I'll be chairing the meeting, which starts at 6:30 pm sharp at WMATA HQ, 600 5th Street, NW in the committee room (past security, left and then right.) The meeting will start with public comment, followed by a Q&A with Capt. Kevin Gaddis of MTPD, and then debate over passing a resolution.
People normally can speak for 2 minutes in public comment. However, there are likely to be a lot of people and we want to have lots of time to ask questions to Capt. Gaddis as well. Therefore, borrowing from Arlington's procedures, everyone who is willing to speak for only 1 minute will get to speak before those who want the full 2.
I'd like to know what this is costing and whether there are other ways to spend the money. It's been reported that these are TSA personnel, not MTPD. It was also reported that this money is coming from federal grants. But if MTPD wanted the TSA to instead be patrolling the platforms with dogs to sniff for bombs, or with behavioral profiling experts to look for people that might be about to attack the system, could they use the money for this instead?
And what's the effectiveness? Have such programs in other cities actually deterred any attacks? Did Metro have any data on the value of this kind of program versus others?
Civil liberties advocates have also asked whether these searches are looking for other items that aren't related to the actual safety of Metro. The ACLU points out that searches for "general crime control" are not permitted (and even the constitutionality of this program is doubtful).
DC will soon start to have legal medical marijuana, but that remains illegal under federal law as well as in Maryland and Virginia. What will MTPD do if a rider boarding a station in the District has marijuana? Whose laws are they obligated to enforce?
What else would you like to know? What do you think the RAC's resolution should say?
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