Metropolitan Transit Police from the perspective of a veteran Street Sense vendor, pt 1


In late June this year, Phase 2 of the Metro “SafeTrack” refurbishment went into effect, closing down the Stadium-Armory and Potomac Avenue stations. Hundreds of thousands of commuters were forced on a daily basis to find alternate routes or exit the subway at the Eastern Market Station and board a shuttle bus to either Benning Road or Minnesota Avenue stations in order to continue their commute.

On the second weekday of the shutdown, I arrived at Eastern Market Station to work my usual 5-6 p.m. evening shift, expecting the forecasted heavy rain.

What occurred there between me and a blonde female Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) officer was reminiscent of my previous experiences with a particular male MTPD officer. In order for you to truly understand my feelings and perceptions, I must expose you to some of the incidents that have occurred over the past 11 years that I have sold our newspaper at this location.

I’ve received eight citations and been thrown in jail overnight twice. Both overnight incidents were for vending without a license and unlawful entry.

As my wife would say: “Truth be told!” First of all, I don’t need a license to distribute Street Sense in exchange for donations. Secondly, how do you unlawfully enter a public space? (I was standing next to the subway entrance during both instances.)

This recent female officer’s attitude was reminiscent of an experience six years ago with a male officer who harassed me in front of three new recruits. I guess he was “showing them the ropes.” He and the three rookies heard me projecting my sales pitch as I was coming up the escalator at Eastern Market Station to announcing my presence. When I reached the top of the escalator, he immediately asked for my identification — knowing full well that he had given me a $50 citation for vending without a license on one occasion and thrown me in jail for that and unlawful entry on another occasion.

He was checking to see if there was a warrant for my arrest for not paying the fine or failure to appear. When both checks came up negative, he gave me a citation for panhandling. When I received the citation, I asked, “Are you finished?” He said he was. Then I told him, loud enough for the rookies to hear, “We don’t need you around here!”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Your attitude would be more readily tolerated further south!” I replied.

He then asked, “Are you saying I’m a racist?”

At moderate volume I said, “If it smells like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck,” then I yelled in his face, “IT’S A DUCK!”

“You make them look bad,” I said, pointing to the rookies. “Now do I have to leave because you gave me a ticket?”

He said I did not and the four of them stood around as I continued vending the paper for 15 minutes or so. At least 10 times before they left the area, each of them heard the segment of my pitch where I say, “Would you help a hard-working homeless man, who doesn’t panhandle, with at least a dollar donation? Cause homeless isn’t helpless when you have Street Sense.”

The next time I saw that officer, maybe two months later, he came up the escalator and immediately approached me to apologize and shake my hand, saying, “You are just selling a paper.”

This new blonde-haired female MTPD officer didn’t know how close she came to hearing me say “We don’t need you around here!”

(to be continued …)

Issues |Transportation

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