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RTD passengers, employees eager for transit police's switch to 24/7 staffing model

Right now, there is a gap in transit police coverage from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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Posted at 9:29 PM, Apr 24, 2024

DENVER — Passengers and employees tell Denver7 they're eager for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Transit Police Department's switch to a 24/7 staffing model.

Right now, there is a gap in transit police coverage from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., according to an RTD spokesperson. Beginning May 5, there will be a transit officer available at all hours.

“The introduction of an overnight team has been a priority for RTD-PD, and it was always contingent upon our hiring success,” said RTD Transit Chief of Police and Emergency Management Dr. Joel Fitzgerald, Sr. in a statement. “We needed enough staff to begin to provide the high-performance service our stakeholders expect. As we continue to grow, you’ll see us even more.”

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Julieta Smith takes the rail line at Denver’s Union Station too many times a week to count.

“I work as a flight attendant,” said Smith.

Smith described some of the dangerous situations she's encountered aboard the light rail.

“There have been instances. Like one time, two gentlemen got into a fight with a knife, and I didn't feel safe then,” she explained.

It's not just passengers who feel unsafe.

“You name it, I've seen it,” said Ron Short, an RTD bus driver who serves as the secretary for ATU Local 1001.

After more than two decades behind the wheel, Short said violence has only escalated since the start of his career.

“Now I look at our paperwork to see how many [incidents] not if there was any, which is sad,” he said.

In September 2023, a suspect fatally stabbed a man on an RTD bus in an unprovoked attack before killing a woman less than two miles away. Four months later, two men were shot on an RTD bus in Denver's Mar Lee neighborhood.

“You name it. I've seen it out there,” said Short.

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The RTD Transit Police Department hopes to curb such violence with its staffing model switch. In its announcement, RTD said the shift will "enhance the personal safety and security of RTD's frontline employees and customers."

According to RTD, the overnight team will focus on "areas in need of greater safety efforts for bus and rail operators, such as when employees begin their morning shifts at Denver Union Station." As staffing increases, the agency will then prioritize other problem areas.

RTD has 61 Colorado Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST)-certified officers within its transit police department, with an additional 19 recruits set to graduate from the police academy in May. The district estimates another 26 recruits to attend the July academy.

RTD said it plans to add a minimum of 119 officers by the end of the year. In comparison, there were only 19 transit officers in August 2022.

Smith acknowledged that around-the-clock security won't solve everything but said it would give her peace of mind.

“It would make me feel like I can check my trip information when I’m going for a flight without worrying about having an iPhone in my hand or my passport on me,” she said.


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