Metro officials react to viral video of woman dragged from subway

FILE: A video of a young woman being dragged from a Metro Red Line subway train by an LAPD officer after she refused to remove her feet from the seat has gone viral, prompting reaction from the transit agency board.
FILE: A video of a young woman being dragged from a Metro Red Line subway train by an LAPD officer after she refused to remove her feet from the seat has gone viral, prompting reaction from the transit agency board.
Spokker Jones/flickr Creative Commons

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The board that governs Los Angeles County's transit agency had a lot to say on Thursday about a video that’s gone viral this week, one showing a Los Angeles Police Department officer forcibly removing a woman from a train after she refused to move her feet off the seat. 

The video has been viewed more than 10 million times as of this writing and has stirred a debate over policing on public transit. 

The young woman was removed from a Red Line subway train Monday afternoon and arrested at the Westlake/MacArthur Park station. The video shows her arguing with the officer after he asked she move her foot off the seat, a violation of the customer code of conduct for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

At the monthly meeting Thursday of the Metro board made up of public officials, several directors vented frustration over the incident captured in the video — and the criticism it brought on Metro.

James Butts, Inglewood mayor and a former police officer, called the young woman a “brat” and expressed support for the actions of the officer.

"I thought he was in an extremely difficult situation," he said. "He would have no expectation that asking someone to take their feet off the furniture would result in resistance."

County Supervisor Hilda Solis acknowledged the importance of upholding the Metro conduct code.  But she wondered if there might be a better way to enforce it with less potential to escalate conflicts, such as using community members for enforcement rather than police officers.

"We use it now for homeless. We use formerly homeless people helping us. Why couldn't we think about having some good will folks that can help be those voices for rationality and sensibility?" she said.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said there is precedence for law enforcement to adjust their actions based on the situation.

"In other contexts where we look at response to homeless people, to people with mental illness, we always try to emphasize ... the least aggressive stance first off," she said.

L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin pointed out that "everybody views this video through a different prism," based on their experiences and perceptions of law enforcement. He stressed the importance of understanding both perspectives, those for whom more law enforcement presence means safety and those who find it a cause for alarm.

Director Jacqueline Dupont-Walker, herself from a law enforcement family, wondered why the officer was not accompanied by a partner who may have been able to deescalate the encounter. She also asked why it appears a citation was not issued before the officer removed the young woman from the train.

She said the agency should be sensitive to concerns voiced in focus groups that people of color feel they are treated differently by law enforcement on transit. She welcomed the opportunity to have more dialogue about Metro policing.

"I think this is a lesson learned for us, especially as we move forward to build this global transportation system. This is not the way we want 9.1 million people around the world to learn of L.A. Metro," she said, referring to the numbers who viewed the video.

Metro CEO Phil Washington said he had productive meetings with LAPD about improving enforcement going forward. LAPD is continuing to investigate the incident.

Video of the incident below: