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Seattle authorities to review security rules after transit beating

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Officers watch beating
  • Authorities say 15-year-old girl assaulted, robbed on bus platform in transit tunnel
  • Video shows guards following rules not to intervene; instead, they called authorities
  • Eventually, police arrived and arrested four people, including assault suspect
  • County officials say incident is so troubling, "security protocol" needs review

Seattle, Washington (CNN) -- Video of unarmed transit guards watching a girl being beaten on a bus tunnel platform has prompted Seattle authorities to review guidelines that kept the guards from intervening.

"Public safety is our top priority. I am appalled by the sight of uniformed guards standing by while a person was kicked and beaten," King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement released Wednesday.

"I have ordered a full review of all operating polices that govern Metro's contract with civilian security guards to determine what changes must be made. People have an expectation of safety when riding public transit, and we must take every measure we can to assure that."

The incident involved what authorities call "the assault and robbery" of a 15-year-old on January 28 in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. The incident followed an argument at a department store, authorities said.

As the victim was beaten, the guards didn't intervene. Instead, they called in the incident to authorities. As police arrived, the people at the scene fled, but officers eventually arrested four people, including the suspect in the assault.

King County has a contract with a firm called Olympic Security Services Inc. that helps the Metro transit police, and according to that agreement, "unarmed security guards are instructed not to intervene when witnessing suspicious behavior or criminal activity, but to 'observe and report' and radio the Metro Transit Control Center, which relays requests for assistance to the appropriate law enforcement agencies."

But King County authorities said the incident was so distressing and troubling that it needed to review Metro's "security protocol."

"Safety and security is Metro's top priority, and we rely on a combination of security guard patrols, uniformed police patrols, field supervisors and various surveillance systems to maintain ongoing safety in the tunnel," Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond said.

In addition to contracting with a private security firm, Metro contracts with the King County Sheriff's Office for 68 commissioned officers to provide law enforcement as the Metro Transit Police.

"The security guards have a range of duties," Desmond said, "including providing routine assistance and safety reminders to customers and reporting suspicious objects, disruptive behavior and equipment problems in the tunnel stations. Intervention by civilian security guards when a violent crime is being committed can have serious consequences for bystanders and the guards themselves.

"Therefore, we will rely on the expertise of our sheriff's office and others as we review the circumstances surrounding this particular incident, and review a range of issues including the appropriate level of response that should be authorized to effectively defuse such situations."