Saturday, May 24, 2008

MASSACHUSETTS TRANSIT POLICE REBEL ON MINOR TICKETS

BOSTON GLOBE - Disgruntled MBTA police officers, who have routinely issued more than 100 citations for fare evasion a month, have not issued a single ticket in May and wrote only seven in April, prompting the T's top brass to accuse them of dereliction of duty. . . . . . Robert Marino, the president of the T police union, said that many officers believe that they should be focusing more on perpetrators of violent crimes, not scofflaws. "This is all over $1.75 or $2 as opposed to someone being sexually assaulted," Marino said. . .

T records show that, before last month, transit police were enforcing the "little things." They ticketed 403 fare evaders in the first five months of last year, including 105 evaders in April 2007 and 175 in May 2007. This year, they were on pace to write more tickets through the first three months of the year.

Then came an emotional meeting of the MBTA Police Patrolman's Association on March 30, when officers railed against the fare-evasion work.

Officers said it is a potentially dangerous assignment because they patrol gates in plain clothes, which they say leads to confrontations with evaders who think they are being stopped by another commuter. The civilian clothes also give them no place to hide their batons, which Marino said is a violation of department rules.

Marino said many of those complaining were 20-year veterans whose opinions influenced younger officers.

Marino said there was no formal agreement at the meeting to stop issuing tickets, but afterward, many officers probably decided to let evaders go with just a warning, not a ticket. The numbers suggest that this has become the de facto policy on the T: In the eight weeks since the meeting, officers have issued just seven tickets.

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