April 20, 2018 06:20 PM
Metro Transit Police are investigating what they're calling an incident involving a bus driver Thursday night.
It happened along Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, and the altercation was between a Metro Transit bus driver and passengers.
"It pains me to see this happen," Brian Funk, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for buses at Metro Transit said.
Funk told KSTP they are reviewing cell phone footage that captured the incident, as well as surveillance video from inside the bus.
"I've watched that Facebook video and we're really just trying to get to the bottom of who all was involved, how things transpired, and how we got to that point," Funk said.
This incident comes a month into a pilot program where Metro Transit is testing out protective glass barriers for the drivers in 20 buses.
"Each one of the shields closes the operator in a semi-compartment situation," Funk said.
So far, Funk is hearing mixed reviews. He says some love the extra safety, while others prefer more face-to-face interaction.
"If we need to get more in-depth or I need to address somebody back here, I'm able to slide that open," Funk said.
A week and a half ago, a passenger captured a different attack on a bus driver. Police have charged 26-year-old Sterling Smith with third degree assault.
"As disturbing as it is, it's not a normal thing and that's why it's causing such alarm for us as well," Funk said.
But numbers released by the Twin Cities Transportation Authority show assaults and offenses committed against transit operators are on the rise. Since the start of 2018, 56 total cases have been reported to police. That's compared to 49 during the same period in 2017.
"Our operators have talked about what can happen on board despite best efforts to de-escalate situations," Funk said.
Metro Transit stresses every one of these incidents captured on camera is different, but they are concerning, and that's why they'll take all the reviews from this six-month pilot program to best protect their drivers.
"When those things do not go right, will this be a benefit for their safety," Funk said.
The ATU Local 1005 Amalgamated Transit Union, who represents the bus drivers, declined to comment on the incident or the pilot program.
Updated: April 20, 2018 06:20 PM
Created: April 20, 2018 03:15 PM
Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company