News Q & A: MTPD Security Inspection Program

When will Metro begin inspecting passenger bags?
The Metro Transit Police Department will begin randomly inspecting passengers' carry-on items before they enter the Metro system when circumstances warrant heightened vigilance, such as an elevated security threat. However, we will take steps to ensure that there will be no discernable pattern to these inspections. The dates, times, and locations of security inspections will not be announced in advance.

Why is Metro doing this?
Metro is inspecting passenger bags to deter terrorist attacks by increasing our potential for detecting explosives or other hazardous material into the Metro system and to disrupt the ability of terrorists to discern a pattern in our security measures. The effort aims to increase awareness of the overall safety of passengers and employees in the Metro system and to ensure continuous operations during periods of heightened security in the National Capital area.

When and where will the inspections take place?
Inspections may occur depending on police intelligence at any Metro facility. Times and locations will change depending on police intelligence or crowding conditions. Dates, times and locations will not be announced in advance.

Who is conducting the inspections?
A select team of Metro Transit Police officers who have undergone extensive training in areas such as conflict management, suicide bomber recognition, legal aspects of security inspection points, indicators of terrorist activity, behavioral assessment and explosive ordinance detection and disposal will conduct inspections.

How will the bag inspections be conducted?
A select team of trained officers may inspect passenger carry-on items prior to their entering the rail system or boarding a Metrobus. All carry-on items of passengers who enter a Metro facility will be subject to these inspections.

In general, customers will pass through inspection points prior to passing through a Metrorail faregate or boarding a Metrobus (before paying a fare). A customer whose items have been randomly selected for inspection will be taken to the inspection site off to the side. The customer will be asked to open his or her carry-on item. An officer will visually inspect the contents of the item. The inspection will be limited to searching for explosives and other items that may be harmful. Areas of bags that aren't capable of concealing an explosive will not be opened. If an explosive detecting canine is present, the customer may be asked to have his or her carry-on item sniffed by the canine. If the canine alerts for the presence of explosives the officers have legal authority to search the item, per United States v. Place.

In the event that neither the visual inspection nor the canine sniff reveals the presence of explosives, the customer immediately will be allowed to go on his or her way. Customers who aren't selected for an inspection will be allowed to enter the Metro system immediately. Customers who refuse to cooperate with the inspection will not be permitted to enter the Metro system with their items.

What are you looking for in the bags?
We are looking for explosive devices and other illegal, dangerous devices that could be used to harm passengers and employees.

What types of bags will be searched?
All types of carry-on items are subject to inspection including, but not limited to purses, briefcases, backpacks, gym bags, suitcases, shopping bags and boxes.

Will everyone"s bags be searched or only select bags?
All customers who enter the Metro system may be subject having their carry-on items inspected.

How will you go about deciding which people"s bags you will inspect?
All customers who enter the Metro system may be subject to having their carry-on items inspected. Metro Transit Police officers are prohibited from relying on a person's race, ethnicity or apparent religious faith or affiliation when selecting someone for screening.

A supervisor will select a random number every day. Let's say that number is 14. Every 14th person with a carry-on item will be subject to having his or her carry-on item inspected.

Does Metro have the legal authority to do an inspection of this nature?
Legal authority to inspect packages brought into mass transit systems and other venues has been upheld by the courts in numerous jurisdictions. Metro's inspection program is very similar to the one conducted in the subway system in New York City. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has specifically ruled on the constitutionality of the New York program in MacWade v. Kelly.

How long will it take to do a bag inspection and ensure it"s thorough?
The time it takes to inspect a bag will depend on the size of the bag. In general, it should only take about eight to 15 seconds to inspect an item such as a briefcase or backpack.

How long will this delay people from getting on trains?
Customers whose bags are selected for inspection will be delayed for a very short time, depending on the size of their bag and the number of other people whose items are selected for inspection.

What if someone refuses to be searched?
If a passenger refuses to have his/her items inspected, he/she will not be allowed to enter the Metro system with the items.

Are you prepared to lock up people who do not comply?
Metro Transit Police will not arrest people who refuse to have their carry-on items inspected. However, people who refuse an inspection will not be allowed to enter the Metro system with the items.

What is the procedure if you find explosives?
Metro Transit Police will evacuate customers from the area. The police department's canine and explosive detection units will be called to the scene to verify whether the item is dangerous and then take appropriate action.

What if you find something that is prohibited or illegal?
Metro Transit Police will advise the person whose bag is being inspected that there is an item inside that is prohibited and the person will not be allowed to take the item into the Metro system. If an illegal item is found, it will be confiscated as evidence and police will cite or arrest the individual.

What if you find drugs?
If an illegal item is found, it will be confiscated as evidence and police will cite or arrest the individual.

What if you find a gun?
The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia have different gun laws. Metro Transit Police will take the appropriate action based on the laws of the jurisdiction.

How many people do you plan to inspect each day?
There is no quota for inspections.

How did you determine when and where to do the bag inspections?
The Metro Transit Police Department will begin randomly inspecting passengers' carry-on items before they enter the Metro system when circumstances warrant heightened vigilance, such as an elevated security threat. However, we will take steps to ensure that there will be no discernable pattern to these inspections. The dates, times and locations of security inspections will not be announced in advance.

How closely is this program tailored to the one in NYC?
It is very similar.

Do you think this will be easier or harder to do in DC than in NYC?
This is a simple process in which officers will inspect carry-on items in just a few seconds.

Are you prepared for a lawsuit?
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has specifically ruled on the constitutionality of the New York program in MacWade v. Kelly. We expect the court to uphold any challenge to our system because it is so similar to the New York program.

Will this really make a difference?
Yes.

Can"t you do this systemwide?
Metro is not looking to conduct inspections at all stations at all times.

Will you conduct inspections before people get on Metrobuses?
Yes.

What type of reaction do you expect to get from customers?
We expect customers to voluntarily comply.

What took so long for you to decide to do this?
We have been carefully watching developments in the transit industry, communicating with our counterparts in other systems and evaluating recommendations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). There is a growing consensus within the industry that programs such as this are a good idea, and the DHS touts it as a Smart Security Practice. We believe the time has come to offer our customers this additional layer of protection. With the upcoming elections and inauguration, this is the right time to launch this effort.

Where does Metro get the authority to search passengers?
Metro Transit Police will not be searching passengers. Inspections will be limited to carry-on items, including but not limited to backpacks, luggage, briefcases and any other container capable of concealing explosives in an amount sufficient to do significant damage to passengers, employees or property on the Metro system.

Where does Metro get the authority to inspect carry-on items of passengers entering the Metro system?
Metro's program of carry-on inspections will be modeled after the program instituted several years ago by the New York City Police Department which was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in MacWade v. Kelly. Metro's program will contain all of the Constitutional protections required by the MacWade case and related court decisions going back over 30 years.

Inspections of items being brought into the Metro system have been analogized to inspections of items being carried onto airplanes. See American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee et al. v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Courts have consistently upheld inspections of items carried onto airplanes. See United States v. McKennon, United States v. $124,570 U.S. Currency, United States v. Davis, United States v. Pulido-Baquerizo and United States v. Doe.

Courts also have approved inspections of items carried into military facilities (Morgan v. United States) and inspection of items carried into courthouses (McMorris v. Alioto).

How is randomness determined?
Randomness is statistical randomness. At the beginning of an operation a number will be selected by a supervising official. That number will determine which items will be inspected. For example, if the number is seven, every seventh customer with a carry-on item will have his/her items inspected.

Will the officers conducting the searches be given discretion to alter the protocol?
No. They will strictly adhere to the protocol.

How will Metro avoid racial, ethnic and religious profiling?
Race, ethnicity and religion will not be factors in determining which items to inspect. Items to be inspected will be determined strictly on a numerical system.

What steps is Metro taking to limit the intrusion and inconvenience to passengers?
Metro Transit Police will only inspect areas of carry-on items that are capable of concealing explosives. Police will not be viewing the content of papers or other reading material.

Will I be late for work and appointments?
Not likely. Inspections will be brief. The purpose of the inspection is to look for explosives. The inspection will only take so long as to determine whether explosives are contained in the carry-on item.

How can passengers help make the inspections go more smoothly?
Customers whose items are selected for inspection can assist the process by complying with reasonable requests made by the officers who are doing the inspections. If someone cooperates, it will go much faster.

Will my personal papers be inspected?
No. The purpose of the inspection is to look for explosives. There is no need to rummage through personal papers.

Is this a general inspection for contraband?
No. The purpose of the inspection is to look for explosives. However, if an illegal item is found, it will be confiscated as evidence and police will cite or arrest the individual.

What will Metro Transit Police do if a suspicious person is not selected for an inspection?
A person who is not selected for carry-on bag inspection may still be searched if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying explosives, has committed a crime, is in the process of committing a crime or is about to commit a crime.

How will customers know when they might be subject to a search?
Metro will post a sign at the entrance to a station to let passengers know that an inspection is taking place at that station.

Will every station be subject to inspections?
Yes.

How will stations be selected?
Stations will be selected according to available intelligence or by random selection. There will be no discernable pattern to station selection.

Will the inspection points be up all day?
Maybe, depending on intelligence.

What times of day will the inspection points be set up?
This will vary.

Will customers be required to pass through inspection points?
No. Signs will be posted to inform customers about the inspection point. Customers may choose to avoid the inspection point and not enter the Metro system.

How can you deny entry into the Metro system when a customer has already paid the fare?
Customers will be subject to bag inspections prior to paying a fare.

What will Metro Transit Police do to screen carry-on items already in the Metro system?
Police may conduct consensual bag inspections and sweeps of Metro stations and trains with explosive detecting canines. They will also monitor the behavior of customers.

How will you conduct sweeps inside the Metro system?
Teams of officers and explosive-detecting canines will patrol stations, trains and buses. If the dog alerts to the presence of an explosive device, the officers have sufficient cause to search the item.

What if I think my bags were wrongly searched or I was mistreated during an inspection?
The Metro Transit Police Department is interested in hearing from you and being accountable to our customers. You can submit a complaint or compliment via our online Metro Transit Police Commendation or Complaint Form. Those who have traffic or criminal incidents pending should be aware that this review process will only deal with matters of departmental policy and the conduct of members of the MTPD. If you have additional questions about the complaint or commendation process, please call 202-637-1328.


© 2014 Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority       Privacy Policy and Legal Disclaimer