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Sheriff's office explores idea of forming Transit Security Division to improve MCTS driver safety

Posted at 4:23 PM, Jun 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-05 18:23:46-04

MILWAUKEE — Bus drivers and riders brought their demands for better safety and security on the buses to Milwaukee County's Transportation, Public Works and Transit Committee meeting Wednesday.

Videos have shown riders spitting on drivers, throwing food and liquids at them, and in one case using pepper spray on a driver.

County officials have been looking into the feasibility of the Sheriff's Office taking full law enforcement authority for the transit system.

Representatives for the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) explained forming the Transit Security Division could cost at least $2.8 million or $4.2 million, depending on the staffing levels. According to the MCSO report, to form a highly effective countywide transit patrol with full staffing for MCTS service hour would cost about $4.2 million.

Currently the county contracts with a private security firm at $1.5 million annually.

The item up for discussion drew more than a dozen people to speak during public comment. Many of them were bus operators sharing their stories and pleading for change.

"I was threatened to be shot in my face. I did call the dispatcher," said bus operator Sherry Jones.

"If it wasn’t for a passenger who came up to my aid I don’t know what this man would’ve done because he was in my face, putting his hand around my shield," said Marcia Mobbs, another bus operator.

Workers told county officials they called their dispatcher for help, but no one showed up to check on them or take a report.

"It's scary to come to work. Most of us have families and we have to do this everyday. Something needs to be done," said Jones.

"It confirmed my suspicions is that the stories are in fact true that the bus drivers are assaulted much more often than is being led on," said Milwaukee County Supervisor Dan Sebring, who sits on the committee.

The Amalgamated Transit Union president has proposed drivers be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on board and buses have a full enclosure for drivers.

Sebring said now that they have a better idea of what it would take to create the Transit Security Division, which was just up as an informational item on the agenda, it will be on the full board to decide what direction to go in.