The mob assault of an MBTA bus driver on Sunday backs up claims by a local workers union that Transit Police should be able to arrest people suspected of assault and battery of transit workers, according to The Boston Carmen's Union, which is calling for legislative action on a bill filed last year.
“An Act to Authorize the Arrest for Assault and Battery on a Public Employee.”
Transit Police Superintendent-in-Chief Joseph O'Connor said the changes would be "a valuable tool" that would deter people from assaulting T workers, because currently officers are not allowed to make on-the-spot arrests. They may only issue summons.
"They’ll see that we are making arrests in these cases, and that the courts are taking these assaults seriously," O'Connor said.
For many, it comes as a surprise that Transit Police are unable to arrest assault suspects at the scene.
"I think public generally may not know all the ins outs and the rights and powers of officers. People are probably surprised that in many cases we cannot make arrests. Right now we summon people to court," O'Connor said.
Those who crafted the bill cited a fairly recent uptick in violent assaults on bus drivers and trolley operators.
"(Transit) workers, male and female, are on the job in the early morning hours and late into the night. They are often isolated while working in buses, trolleys and transit stations and are increasing becoming the target of violence. It is well passed time for a crackdown on the thugs that target working women and men on any public transit job," said John Laughlin, a spokesman for the Boston Carmen's Union.
According to Laughlin, the bill would help transit workers from getting beaten, and possibly killed, while on the job.