Metro Transit police use training, policy changes to address bias

Metro Transit police chief John Harrington
Metro Transit police chief John Harrington
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington says his department is working hard to combat discrimination in policing.

The department completed an internal analysis of its enforcement data in December, which showed black adults are 16 percent more likely to be issued a citation by police than whites and 40 percent more likely to be arrested than whites.

Harrington joined MPR's Tom Weber Friday to discuss the study and his department's reaction to it.

"Everyone should be treated equitably, which doesn't necessarily always mean equally," he said. "But the system that we're employing should, on average, make sure that whites, blacks, Asian-Americans, Somalis all are treated with the same standard. And it did not appear, given those disparities, that we weren't doing that."

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He said his officers are taking Somali language classes, and the department has also gone back to a policy used when the Green Line first opened, where first-time fare evaders are given a warning, not a citation.

They've also taking on bias training.

"We are doing a joint project with the U of M to bring in the implicit bias training that is part of the president's 21st century policing initiative," Harrington said. "So we will have trained the trainers this summer and we will have our entire department trained that way."

He said they continue to work on training, especially in communication and "de-escalation."