The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Police Department must increase transparency and accountability for officer misconduct investigations, according to a newly-released report by the transit agency’s inspector general.
“Transparency and accountability are vital to building and maintaining public trust – especially when it comes to handling complaints of possible police misconduct,” said MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny on Wednesday, June 30.
MTA PD has 905 members — a fraction compared to the 36,000 officers serving in the NYPD — who are deployed to Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station, and along the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Staten Island Railway.
During the three-year period OIG examined between July 1, 2017–June 30, 2020, there were 155 complaints, or about four per month.
The inspector general formally gained an oversight role of the department after New York state lawmakers passed legislation as part of a package of police reform bills in the aftermath of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer.
Investigators are also looking into complaint procedures at MTA Bridges and Tunnels and plan to release a report on that division in the “near future,” according to OIG.
The OIG’s report gives MTA PD 15 recommendations to bring the transit cops up to snuff with other law enforcement agencies. Those include formalizing the Department’s investigations into complaints, by providing timelines and better communicating with victims.
The watchdog noted that the MTA PD’s Internal Affairs Bureau — which handles more serious allegations — currently relies too much on paper records, which OIG often found to be “ineligible.”
The agency should also establish an early intervention system to quickly detect patterns of complaints about an officer’s misconduct.
To increase transparency and create a better relationship with riders, MTA PD should also publish the outcomes of its investigations in an annual report and scale up its community outreach, according to the report.
MTA PD accepted 14 of the 15 recommendations, taking exception only to developing and publishing a disciplinary matrix, which the Department said would go against existing union agreements.
In a statement, MTA spokesperson Michael Cortez said the police department will improve its transparency and better community relations.
“The MTA PD continuously seeks to improve transparency and build upon existing relationships with the communities we serve,” Cortez said. “MTA PD appreciates the Inspector General’s recommendations and is working to streamline accountability processes within the coming year.”