RTD board rejects resolution to replace contract security guards

DENVER | The Denver-metro transit system voted against a resolution to replace security with social workers on Tuesday.

The resolution lost in a 14-1 vote in the Regional Transportation District’s publicly elected board of directors.

RTD operates throughout most counties in Denver, Aurora and Boulder. Currently, their security team works alongside contracted security and police officers from other major Colorado cities like Denver, Aurora and Arvada. The resolution, introduced by board member Shontel Lewis, seeks to terminate RTD’s contracts with the security company, Allied Universal, and those police departments by the end of the year and reallocate the funds.

While many board members said they appreciated the intentions of the resolution, they voiced concerns of constituent opposition, the overall safety of passengers and workers and an overstep in the scope of RTD’s authority.

Board member Claudia Folska said she hopes that the resolution is the beginning of a working group that “rightly re-imagines how we do security at RTD” but voted no because of the need for security.

Vince Buzek, another board member, opposed the resolution, calling it “vague, ambiguous and internally inconsistent” because of the lack of specifics on redirecting $27.3 million in funds. Buzek also referred the resolution to a national movement for reform and changes in policing that has come about in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“Defunding the police does not mean eliminating the police, which is what this resolution does,” he said.

In response, Lewis rejected Buzek’s notions relating the resolution to defunding the police. She also said the resolution was intentionally ambiguous, and her hope is to “put communities in the driver’s seat.”

Measures to change security policies and practices have come up in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco, but none have called for scaling back security budgets.

It also comes following a lawsuit against RTD for the April 2018 beating of Denver artist Raverro Stinnett by an Allied Universal security officer while three others stood watch outside a bathroom in an underground bus facility near Union Station in Denver.

The guard who beat Stinnett pleaded guilty to felony menacing and received a prison sentence. Two Allied security guards received probation for standing watch and not stopping the attack while a fourth Allied guard, who cooperated in the investigation, was not charged.

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Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.