CLEVELAND - As part of a move to increase safety on RTA buses and trains, Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell will ask RTA general manager Joe Calabrese to allow Cleveland police officers to ride the transit lines for free.
This would include uniform and non-uniform, covering 1,500 or so officers working for the city.
"Transportation is the bread and butter of our city. We have to have a good solid transportation system that is safe, sound, and clean," Conwell explained.
New York State law allows officers to ride trains for free, both uniform and non-uniform. Officers must request a pass to get on board and if the trains are full, they must give up their seat to a paying customer.
The law was passed in 1995 after a Colin Ferguson shot and killed six people and injured 19 others on Dec. 7, 1993. New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was one of the six murdered, and who was elected to Congress a short time after the massacre, said at the time, "it's not going to cost anybody anything, and with the police riding the trains, no one will ever know whether they're sitting next to a policeman or not."
That's the same message Cleveland city lawmakers, as well as the RTA, want to get across to assure passenger safety.
A spokesperson for RTA said they plan to deploy non-uniform transit officers in trouble spots.
But William Nix, head of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 268, disagrees with putting officers in "trouble spots." He wants the non-uniform officers across all the lines of the RTA.
"You can't just stereotype some lines because we would have never thought the number 5 would have been a bad line. If you start stereotyping, you're going to miss the people on different lines somewhere that might attack a driver. "
Conwell already plans to introduce Monday an amendment to a city ordinance which would make assaulting an RTA bus driver or operator a misdemeanor. On Tuesday, the RTA will ask its board for more than $2 million to add cameras to all bus lines.
The changes to the RTA were sparked in October 2012 by the incident involving former RTA bus driver Artis Hughes who was fired after punching a 25-year-old woman who he said spit on him, became unruly, and would not get off the bus.