RTD Director Proposes Replacing Armed Security Guards with Social Workers
The Regional Transportation District would cancel its contract with Allied Universal Security, whose guards assaulted a Denver artist, under a proposed resolution that seeks to remove most armed officers from trains and transit stations.
The move would be among the most drastic steps taken by a U.S. transit agency in response to activists’ nationwide calls to defund police. The resolution cites concern about security officers’ run-ins with the homeless, people of color and other disadvantaged groups, and it would direct RTD to hire outreach workers — including professionals with mental-health training — to replace them.
But ahead of its first formal hearing at a committee on Tuesday, Director Shontel Lewis’ proposal is drawing some skepticism on RTD’s elected board, as well as concerns about safety from the operators’ union.
Lewis said she was motivated not only by the severe beating of Raverro Stinnett inside a Union Station bathroom in 2018, but also by this summer’s demonstrations calling for law enforcement reform.
“These interactions — maybe not to the degree that, unfortunately, Mr. Stinnett had to suffer — happen quite often to communities, particularly Black communities and communities of color,” said Lewis, who was elected later that year to represent a district that includes northeast Denver.
The resolution would set in motion the termination of Allied’s $22 million annual contract by the end of the year and the ending of agreements allowing officers with metro police departments to moonlight as security guards for RTD. The transit system uses around 600 outside armed, uniformed officers, and the proposal would leave armed security to RTD’s dozen or so in-house transit police officers.