It turns out the cash-strapped organization must have needed to save that money to create an elite counterterror force!
Anne Linehan called attention earlier to Rad Sallee’s story for the Chronicle for other reasons, but it’s worth noting the latest addition to the Houston policing scene:
Some Metro riders have wondered about the combat-garbed men patrolling light rail stations and bus transit centers. They look like soldiers, but their uniforms say POLICE.
In fact, they are Metropolitan Transit Authority police officers, and Chief Tom Lambert introduced two of them Thursday at the Metro board’s monthly meeting.
Officers Joe Drescher and Dennis Ribeiro are part of the agency’s Special Operations Response Team, which was formed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., but had not been deployed in public until the July 7 terrorist bombings of trains and a bus in London.
They were wearing pistols, but the SORT team has automatic rifles available if needed. Lambert said training includes 40 hours on a tactical shooting range, classes in handling hazardous materials, and the use of dogs and portable X-ray devices to examine suspicious packages.
The olive drab uniforms are overlaid with black body armor and belts to carry cartridges and other equipment. Secret Service-style earpieces with a cord disappearing under the shirt is also part of the gear. [Note: earpieces is? Come on, Chron copy editors]
Lambert said the group, which consists of 16 Metro police officers and two sergeants, has trained with “experts from Israel” as well as from the FBI, Transportation Security Administration and several U.S. transit agencies.
One Houston Chronicle reader wrote that two SORT officers he encountered refused to show him their badges, causing him to wonder whether they were really police.
If their public demeanor at all resembles that of their boss Chief Lambert, then one suspects the Chronicle reader’s reaction was probably not unique.
Now, if METRO could just train the elite force to part water so the light rail train wouldn’t have to shut down when it rains, that would be money well spent!
Laurence Simon’s reaction is priceless, although readers who are sensitive to profanities (Councilmember Wiseman?) should be forewarned there is profanity.