A program that aims to make travel safer for Lakewood light rail and bus riders is coming back.
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Resolution 2022-54, which allows the City of Lakewood to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Regional Transportation District, was passed by a unanimous vote during the Lakewood City Council meeting on Aug. 8.
The agreement allows Lakewood Police Department to provide contracted law enforcement services on RTD trains, platforms, railyards and buses.
Passage of the resolution allows the city to hit the restart button on the program, which was in operation before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
In a pre-vote discussion about the resolution, Lakewood Interim Police Chief Ed Loar fielded questions about various aspects of the program including compensation, safety of officers and enforcement priorities.
“What (the program) involves is Lakewood agents being on the light rail as well as the light rail line — the properties, the platforms — everything that RTD owns within the City of Lakewood,” he said. “We are not going outside of the city enforcing anything. We put officers on the light rail helping with fare enforcement. They also look for other violations, which they usually find plenty of those too.”
Loar said a pair of officers in a patrol car parallels the plain-clothes agents on the train in case they make arrests or need backup.
“So, at any given time, you’ll have four officers working that assignment,” Loar said.
He also said the popular, sought-after volunteer assignment will not lead to agents becoming overworked even though the department is currently staffed below full capacity.
Loar assured council members that professionalism, including using de-escalation techniques when appropriate, would be employed by agents working the extra duty. He said RTD will train agents on procedural matters. Because money for the program (to pay the police agents) comes from federal funding, agents will also be subject to drug and alcohol testing.
Ward 2 Councilor Sharon Vincent said her constituents are elated to have to program restart.
“I can’t tell you how supportive of this (program) I am,” Vincent said. “I think it will solve a lot (of problems).”
Loar said the program dovetails nicely with operations already taking place on and around Lakewood light rail platforms and stations.
“We’re out there weekly now, doing enforcement actions, undercover operations — putting narcotics agents out there and we’re making a lot of arrests,” he said. “We’re making our presence known. We’re making it known to the criminals that maybe they should go somewhere else.”
Before the vote was taken, Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul described the previous incarnation of the program as “meaningful,” as he declared his support.
“Low-level fare violations are certainly not something we want to be going after, but as you all know there has been some pretty erratic behavior not only along the line, but also in the stations. So, I think it’s a step in the right direction and I’m happy to support it.”
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