Metro News Release

For immediate release: October 27, 2008

Metro Transit Police to begin bag inspection program

Police to increase visibility to enhance security and heighten awareness

The Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) will begin a bag inspection program and look into passengers’ bags prior to them entering the Metro system in an ongoing effort to protect Metro riders, employees and facilities. Officers will be inspecting bags for explosive devices.

Bag search

“The Security Inspection Program aims to deter terrorist attacks and increase the overall safety of the Metro system,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn. “Inspections could take place at any Metrorail station or Metrobus stop. They will be random, unannounced and focused on explosive detection.”

The Metro Transit Police anticipate conducting random bag searches under the Security Inspection Program when circumstances warrant heightened vigilance. Police will take steps to ensure that there will be no discernible pattern to these inspections. At such time, a team of specially trained MTPD officers will begin looking into passenger bags, including briefcases, backpacks, boxes, gym bags, suitcases and purses. Inspection points will be set up at Metro facilities and passengers will go through inspections before entering a rail station or boarding a bus.

“Security is a top priority at Metro. We’re committed to enhancing the safety of our riders and employees and security inspections are an important part of that effort,” said Metro General Manager John Catoe. “It’s important to know that we have received no threat to the Metro system, but we have the responsibility to do everything we can to keep it safe."

Beginning Monday, Oct. 27, large signs will be posted at Metrorail station entrances informing riders about the potential of inspections. The red and white signs clearly state: Backpacks, carry-on items and other containers are subject to inspection.

"While the inspections themselves will not necessarily take place today, Metro Transit Police have been trained and are ready to start immediately, if needed,” Taborn said.

When MTPD begins screening passengers’ belongings, the inspection locations will not be announced ahead of time. They could take place at any Metro facility at any time. All passengers’ carry-on items will be subject to inspection. However, just prior to beginning the inspection process at a specific location Metro Transit Police will post signs alerting riders about the security initiative.

At the inspection site, teams of five to eight Metro Transit Police officers and a trained explosive-detection dog will conduct the screenings. Riders who are randomly selected will be taken off to the side and will be asked to open their carry-on items. In a matter of seconds, officers will visually inspect the contents for explosive devices. Individuals who refuse to have their bag or bags inspected will not be allowed to enter the Metro system with those carry-on items. The will be free to leave the system with their items.

“We ask our riders to cooperate with the officers who are conducting the inspections to minimize any inconvenience,” Taborn said. “We also want to remind the public that security in mass transit depends on a concerted effort by police, transit employees and passengers.”
Metro riders are reminded to report any suspicious activity to Metro Transit Police by calling 202-962-2121.

Additionally, with the impending election and presidential inauguration just a few months away, Metro Transit Police will be heightening security efforts throughout the Metrorail and Metrobus system. Metro riders should not be surprised to see more uniformed police officers, some carrying additional weaponry, and explosive-detection dogs in rail stations, and on buses and trains. During these highly-visible patrols of rail stations and bus routes, trains and buses may pause for a few seconds as police visually inspect the vehicles for suspicious activities, behaviors and packages.

“If the initiative we are announcing today does nothing more than remind us all that there are people in the world who have vowed to do us harm, and that vigilance is the key to defeating them, then this program will have succeeded. I think it will do more,” Taborn said.

Prior to launching the Security Inspection Program, Metro Transit Police met with officials at the Transportation Security Administration and transit agencies in New York, Boston and New Jersey where police regularly conduct inspections of passengers’ belongings. Legal authority to inspect packages brought into the Metro system has been established by the court system on similar types of inspections in mass transit properties, airports, military facilities and courthouses.

Additional information about the Security Inspection Program can be found in the Frequently asked questions section of Metro's Web site.

News release issued at 11:18 am, October 27, 2008.