For Immediate Release: November 13, 2019
Councilmember Robert White Calls For
More Oversight and Diversity Within WMATA
– Councilmember Robert White today said that oversight, transparency, and diversity on the WMATA board are needed in order to improve the relationship between Metro Transit Police and communities of color. White, Chair of the Committee on Facilities and Procurement, which has oversight over WMATA, and Councilmember Charles Allen, Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, held a joint hearing on Tuesday, November 12
on how the Metro Transit Police Department’s (MTPD) policing practices impact communities of color. Councilmember White called for this oversight hearing following a June 22
incident where MTPD officers allegedly handcuffed and pinned down a 13-year-old DC student and tased a graduate student who attempted to intervene.
Councilmember White said, “Almost every witness testified about the need for a civilian complaint board, and several people said that MTPD is not transparent with their data or policies.” White believes these are matters of basic oversight and transparency that WMATA and MTPD must comply with as public entities, and he intends to work with Councilmember Allen to move forward with solutions.
White also noted at the hearing that the WMATA Board of Directors needs more diversity. He said, “When I wrote to the WMATA board about specific concerns regarding aggressive policing of people of color and the board did not bother to respond, I knew their lack of empathy reflected their lack of diversity.” Last week, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson nominated Stephanie Gidigbi, a Ward 8 resident, a woman of color, and a transit expert, as one of the District’s new board members, replacing Councilmember Jack Evans. “This is a step in the right direction for diversity on the board, but we still need more.” White said.
White said, “Yesterday’s hearing showed that we can bring communities to the table with MTPD leadership and have a tough but productive conversation about difficult issues.” White noted that both action and more conversations are necessary, but said that yesterday’s hearing was a good first step. White commended Councilmember Allen for his consistent commitment to racial equity.
# # #