We delivered the following statement to the SEPTA Board during the January 2021 SEPTA Board meeting. We are calling for full transparency on the scope and results of the investigation regarding SEPTA police involvement in the Jan. 6th coup attempt. We are asking SEPTA GM Leslie Richards to present a plan to find and remove white supremacists from the SEPTA police department.
As of January 19, one of the seven officers has been assigned to an administrative position.
As of February 2021 we have not received a response from SEPTA GM Leslie Richards.
On January 12, 2021, local media announced that SEPTA was investigating seven of its transit police officers for their involvement in the events that took place in Washington, DC on January 6. It is the understanding of the Philly Transit Riders Union (“TRU”) that this investigation will explore whether these officers “entered any area where a police line was established prohibiting entry”.
As the TRU supports and represents the voice of SEPTA’s riders, we are asking for full transparency on the scope and results of this investigation.
We believe it is in riders’ best interests to learn the results of this investigation. These officers are granted positions of authority over riders within SEPTA’s jurisdiction, thus the implications of these officers’ mere presence and participation in this rally are alarming and concerning.
The officers’ attendance at a rally designed to sow doubts about the legitimate results of the 2020 Presidential election, and that inspired a treasonous assault on the nation’s Capitol building directly afterwards, has major implications for the riders for whom we advocate. The actions of these individual officers, while not officially sanctioned by SEPTA or its police force, reflect poorly upon SEPTA police and their values— and SEPTA as a whole.
The SEPTA officers’ presence at the January 6 rally suggests their willingness to participate in violent action alongside far-right fringe groups including militia members, overt white suppremicists, neo-nazis, and conspiracy theorists; their participation raises questions about their professional judgement in a way that is dangerous and threatening towards people of color in our communities and people who use transit.
The racial justice protests of the past year have caused mainstream America to acknowledge the longstanding tensions and distrust that exist between police and the Black and brown communities they purport to serve. The TRU does not support the over-militarization of police in SEPTA stations or on SEPTA vehicles, as we believe their aggressively-armed appearance is hostile to many riders. The over-policing of transit riders and our communities is a serious problem.
In light of the events of January 6, and this related investigation, the TRU urges SEPTA and its officials to reexamine the role of militarized police in our transit system, make the findings of this investigation public, present a plan to find and remove white supremacists from the SEPTA police department, and to explore other ways to better serve riders and operators.