WASHINGTON—Amid roaring subway cars at the Foggy Bottom subway station this morning, Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Tabon outlined the security precautions the capital's transit system is taking in anticipation of Inauguration Day.
"More than a million people are expected to ride Metro on Inauguration Day and their safety is our top priority," Tabon said, as the morning rush pushed past him. "We are doing everything that we can to ensure that our customers ride the Metro system without incident."
The enhanced security protocols are not only in response to President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, but the events of 9-11 as well as the Madrid train bombings in 2004.
Approximately 650 police officers, 200 of which will come from outside law enforcement agencies, will fan out across the Washington, DC, area transit system in preparation for possibly the busiest day in its history. Metro Police has borrowed officers from 17 other transit agencies, including those of Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey, and New York. They will receive training upon arrival, according to Tabon.
"The collaboration from our fellow law enforcement agencies is a valuable partnership and provides an added layer of security to ensure the safety of our customers," he said. "We're grateful for their assistance and are excited to have them participate alongside us for this historic occasion."
Law enforcement visibility will be high on Inauguration Day as an officer will be on duty at every metro station as well as some bus stops. Passengers can also expect to see officers on buses and trains throughout the day. Some officers will carry special weapons while others will patrol with explosive detection dogs. Tabon said Metro Police will have between 20 to 25 dogs for Inauguration Day.
As Tabon spoke to assorted reporters, police officers patrolled the platform, some with dogs. The show of force was part of a high-visibility patrol program known as a Targeted Train Inspection. During such inspections, Metro canine units and administrative staff bolster police patrol units and inspect trains and stations for suspicious items or people.
If passengers see this security posture while boarding or exiting at a particular station, it doesn't mean a specific threat is posed to that station, according to Steven Taubenkibel, a spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. "It could just be a routine, random inspection," he said.
Random searches will also be in effect on Inauguration Day. According to The Washington Post yesterday, random searches were to begin immediately, but Tabon told reporters today they had not.The searches will occur only when Metro Police receive information of a credible threat based on intelligence.
"Metro is an open system," said Tabon, and it's necessary to keep it that way considering the expected crowds swarming into the system on Inauguration Day. For the same reason, metal detectors will not be used.
Screening, therefore, will primarily be up to the traveling public. Metro riders should report any suspicious behavior, unusual activity, unattended items, smoke, or odd odors to a uniformed Metro employee or a police officer.
Customers are expected to use common sense and be patient, Tabon said. To make the ride easier for everyone, Metro Transit Police remind riders to bring as little as possible so that items forgotten on trains and buses do not have to be inspected. Bicycles and coolers will also be prohibited within the system.
Metro will open at 4 a.m. on Inauguration Day, January 20, and will close at 2 a.m. Rush hour service will be extended from opening to 9 p.m. as well.
For more of Metro's plans for Inauguration Day, click here.