MBTA Police union says its staffing shortage has been ignored amid safety probe

As the MBTA touts its efforts to comply with federal safety directives, there’s one area it is staying mum on: a staffing shortage at the Transit Police Department.

It’s something that hasn’t escaped the notice of the MBTA Police Association, which said its force is approximately 34% lower than it should be, with no relief in sight.

“Right now, the department is down roughly 96 positions and the authorized strength is 276,” Police Association President Robert Marino said. “Obviously it’s a problem T-wide but this is something that started, I believe, before the MBTA started to see its problem with staffing issues.

“We’ve been telling them this is the way it’s going for several years and it just falls on deaf ears, like everything does,” he added.

Marino said there’s minimum manning every day, and TPD has many of the same problems that the Federal Transit Administration has ordered the T to address with staffing in its operations control center.

Transit Police staffing levels aren’t part of the FTA’s safety management inspection, so the problem has been swept under the rug, even as it presents a safety issue to officers and the public, Marino said.

He said officers are forced to work overtime to compensate for shortages. Crime is up as well, and it can take 30-40 minutes for cops to get to a call in stations that lack patrol coverage.

“We’re just set up to fail from the word ‘go,’” Marino said. “The geography is massive. The expectations are big and the MBTA hasn’t done anything to address any of those concerns.”

And there’s no relief in sight. Only two Transit Police recruits were in the most recent graduating class and a wave of retirements are expected at the end of the year, Marino said.

All police departments are having difficulty attracting new recruits, but Marino said the problem is compounded at the TPD, where officers have been working without a contract for four years.

“It turns people off,” he said, and has resulted in TPD salaries becoming less competitive with surrounding police departments. “There needs to be more done. There needs to be an investment in real safety that just doesn’t exist.”

The starting salary for a Transit Police officer is $58,000. The contract includes step raises for the first four years, and additional compensation for college degrees. The union and MBTA are close to an agreement on a four-year contract, which would expire on June 30, 2023, Marino said.

MBTA and Transit Police officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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