The state of Maryland has taken an important step to help protect Metro Transit Police officers within its jurisdiction. Effective October 1, it became a felony under Maryland law to assault a Metro Transit Police officer. Previously, such crimes were considered a misdemeanor offense.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed the legislation, which includes Metro Transit Police officers under the state’s Law Enforcement Officer Protection Act.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is the public transit system that operates subways and buses in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas of Maryland and Virginia. Assaulting a Metro Transit Police officer was already considered a felony in DC and Virginia.
“We’re pleased to see this new law go into effect. The safety of our officers is of utmost concern. We hope that the law deters assaults on Metro Transit police officers and keeps offenders out of the Metro system,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn.
The move comes as attacks on all Metro employees seem to be on the rise. In March, WMATA General Manager John Catoe reported that attacks on Metrobus operators have more than doubled during the past five years.
In the history of the Metro Transit Police, two officers have been killed in the line of duty. On December 19, 1993, Officer Harry Davis Jr. was shot several times outside the Metro station in Landover, MD, as he questioned two people who were sitting in a vehicle that was reported stolen; Officer Davis died the next day.
On June 10, 2001, Officer Marlon Morales was shot when he confronted a fare jumper at the U Street-Cardozo Metro station in northwest DC. He succumbed to his wounds three days later.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial includes the names of both Officer Davis (Panel 42 West-Line 19) and Officer Morales (Panel 4 East-Line 22). Let’s hope that through efforts such as the new Maryland law, Metro Transit Police officers will be able to work more effectively and more safely.