Teenagers to Transit Police: You’re failing at your job

MBTA Transit Police

It’s report card time for the MBTA and, according to some Boston teens, the Transit Police didn’t make the grade.

Students from the Hyde Square Task Force, a Jamaica Plain-based youth community development organization, said officers are failing to communicate with teens and some feel “disrespected” by “rude” officers who interact with them daily.

The group is scheduled to hand-deliver a report card to Transit Police at Jackson Square station today with the hope that officers will work with them to improve police personnel behavior.

“They can be rude to students,” said 17-year-old Astrid Pena. “Yelling, sometimes they confiscate bus passes, kick [students] out of the train station.”

Pena said there have been instances where officers allegedly “point out specific groups” and search them “without a valid reason.”

“Just things that shouldn’t be happening,” she said. “It’s going to create a barrier between youth and police.”

The group will also reveal results of a recent survey of 700 students that take the T. Results this year showed 218 young riders “strongly agree” that T police could use better training when it comes to communicating with Boston teens.

According to the survey, 242 students said Transit Police have not been successful in making them feel safe when on public transit. “The general vibe — [police] are not going to get a passing grade,” said Carla Poulos, manager of organizing and policy initiatives for the youth group. Poulos said some of the interactions have created “racial barriers” between teens and officers.

However, the survey results weren’t all negative. According to the report, 39 percent of students said T Police act in a respectful way toward teens, up from the 2010 survey.

Pena said students could be more cooperative with cops, too. “This is a 50-50 type of situation. We are not just putting all the blame on Transit Police,” she said.

Transit Police want to work together

For a second year, students will deliver Transit Police a report card.

Deputy Chief Joseph O’Connor said he feels officers “do a very good job,” but he is willing to work with the youths to make more changes if necessary.

“We will continue to have an open dialogue with the group to try and build better relationships,” he said. “We have met with them over the past years, and we believe we can work together to find solutions.”

O’Connor said officers went through additional training to improve youth-cop relations after the last survey.

Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear


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