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The National Academies

TCRP J-05/Topic 20-03 [Active]

Policing and Public Transportation
[ TCRP J-05 (Legal Aspects of Transit and Intermodal Transportation Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: 70,000
Staff Responsibility: Gwen Chisholm-Smith
Research Agency: The Thomas Law Firm
Principal Investigator: Lary Thomas
Effective Date: 3/15/2021
Completion Date: 3/15/2022
Comments: Research in Progress

  BACKGROUND
 
Public transportation agencies strive to offer safe, clean, courteous, and accessible service for the safety, convenience, and comfort of their customers. To achieve these standards, public transportation agencies must enforce rules and police their system against problems like vagrancy, trespassing, vandalism, and violence. Some agencies have their own dedicated police force; others rely on local police. In either case, the policing of public transportation systems raises a variety of legal questions like coordination among forces, who has jurisdiction when a crime crosses city/county lines, the distinction between civil and criminal behavior, constitutional search and seizure issues, balancing public safety concerns with Second Amendment rights, evidentiary demands, and public records laws. In addition, public transportation systems rely upon police forces to enforce customer codes of conduct and to prevent stations and vehicles from becoming shelters for persons experiencing homelessness.
 
 
OBJECTIVE
 
The objective of this research is to produce a report that provides practical advice and a summary of the law for lawmakers, police forces, public transportation agencies, and their attorneys to consult when making decisions about how to police public transportation systems. This research will result in (1) a comprehensive summary of the constitutional issues applicable to the policing of public transportation systems; and (2) a review of select public transportation agencies as examples of the organizational and contractual structures used to effectively police vehicles and premises.
 
Specific issues to be examined include:
 
  • Fourth Amendment
  • Second Amendment
  • Homelessness
  • Fare enforcement, including the use of post-certified versus non-post-certified officers, and the effects of an open/closed or paid-fare/free-fare system
  • Common carrier 
  • Public relations
  • Discrimination/profiling
  • Inter-force agreements 
  • Issues raised by multiple jurisdictions
 
The legal research digest should include:
 
  • A comprehensive summary of constitutional issues relating to the policing of public transportation systems;
  • A discussion of legal questions implicated by the enforcement of fare policies, codes of conduct, homelessness, and the general policing of public transportation;
  • Reviews of lawsuits that have challenged or resulted from the policing of public transportation systems;
  • A summary of the organizational and contractual structure of select public transportation agencies, including organizational charts, and inter-agency and inter-force agreements;
  • Recommended strategies for effective administration, training, and enforcement; and
  • Discussion of potential pitfalls: what terms or practices to avoid if possible.
 STATUS: Research in Progress.

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