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    When Allen Koka started a new job cleaning out buses and trolleys at MTS headquarters, his employers told him they’d wait a bit before issuing him an ID badge – it was a tough gig and there was no reason to go through the motions if he ended up quitting after a day or two.

    The 28-year-old Iraqi immigrant was a few days into the job one night in November 2014 when he reported to work and left a short time later in an ambulance, knocked unconscious, Koka says, by a team of security guards who worked there, too.

    MTS officers said Koka had been trespassing, but all charges against him were eventually dropped. Now it is MTS in court trying to defend itself from a lawsuit filed by Koka.

    What happened is not really in question. It was all caught by body cameras worn by MTS security officers, who are not actual police officers. Among the group of MTS officers involved in taking Koka down were two who have been accused of violence before and remain on the job, a joint investigation by Voice of San Diego and NBC 7 Investigates has found.

    Koka showed up to work that night without an identification badge. That’s why MTS officers suspected him of trespassing.

    The videos make it clear the confrontation was tense from the start and would only get worse. A team surrounded Koka, who is 5-foot-4 and about 145 pounds, and pressed him about his identity for several minutes. Koka said he worked there, the security team said they were going to give him a citation for trespassing.

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    Koka’s brother, also a night janitor there, and the brothers’ supervisor showed up to vouch for him.

    “This guy and this guy work with me,” the supervisor tells the officers, pointing to Koka and his brother.

    After previously agreeing to let Koka call his supervisor to clear things up, the officers then tell him they don’t care about the supervisor once the man shows up. The boss can’t convince the officers to let Koka be.

    “OK, well we’re going to hang onto him for a little bit,” MTS officer Chris Miner tells the supervisor. “He’s not being very cooperative.”

    They want to jail him. When he declines to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed, MTS officer Bill Buck takes Koka down by the throat. It’s unclear what, exactly, is happening to Koka at this point – the video becomes a jumble of darkness and flashes of light – but Koka is screaming in pain.

    He screams “My face!” repeatedly, then screams at the officers that he’s recently had surgery on his stomach. Koka’s attorney said Koka had visited Turkey several months earlier. There, he was robbed, stabbed and hospitalized for a number of weeks before he could return to America.

    Koka said in an interview that he doesn’t remember the tussle. An ER doctor wrote in his emergency record that MTS employees told him Koka got knocked out in the altercation, according to Koka’s lawsuit.

    Mark Arabo, who is politically active within the region’s Iraqi community, said the incident should shake up the MTS security apparatus.

    “Those two officers should be fired immediately,” he said in an interview. “Whoever at the time decided not to fire them should also be fired.”

    Koka’s lawsuit names the officers present, MTS, a private security firm it contracts with and the cleaning company Koka worked for. He says his civil rights were violated, that he was assaulted and that MTS was negligent in its supervision of the officers.

    Two of those officers had been accused of improper use of force before the run-in with Koka. Both men – Buck and Miner – are still working for MTS.


    Just a day before the Koka incident, a magistrate judge announced MTS had settled a lawsuit over an earlier incident involving both Buck and Miner.

    In that settlement and others, MTS does not admit guilt or wrongdoing.

    That settlement was the result of a 2011 altercation in which Buck and Miner stopped a Mexican couple traveling on the trolley for fare evasion, according to a lawsuit filed a year later. While writing the ticket, the officers called the Mexican man, Fernando Alcocer, a “piece of shit” and a “fucking Jew” and said they hoped he and his wife were sent back to Mexico, the suit says.

    When Alcocer said he was going to record the officers with his phone, Buck punched him in the head, according to the lawsuit. Buck and Miner then took him to the ground and proceeded to beat him, the suit says.

    The suit settled for $25,000 – a sum that was split between MTS and Universal Protection Service, a private security firm that MTS contracts with. Buck was an employee of Universal Protection Service at the time. MTS later hired Buck.

    Miner has also been subject of two other complaints MTS paid to settle in the past 10 years.

    MTS and Universal Protection Service split a $7,500 settlement in one of those incidents. In that case, a woman named Detris Phiffer alleged in a lawsuit that she was forced out of her car at the Euclid Avenue Trolley Station in February 2012, thrown to the ground and punched and kicked by a few officers, including Miner.

    In October 2012, a handicapped woman named Linda Li alleged in a formal complaint with MTS that she had a run-in with Miner and another security officer at the El Cajon Transit Center. Details are sketchy but Li claimed in the complaint that the incident left her with bruises and dislocated wrists. MTS paid $20,000 to settle that case.

    Through an MTS spokesman, Buck and Miner declined to comment for this story.


    Over 200 officers patrol trolleys, buses and transit system property. Most of them – 175 – are private security guards from Universal Protection Service. They can have guns but no powers of arrest and cannot write tickets.

    The other 35 or so officers, including Buck and Miner, are employed directly by MTS. They have no guns but can write tickets and briefly detain people, but they cannot send someone to jail without the help of police.

    None of the officers have to attend a police academy; instead, they get 160 hours of on-the-job training and must take a state training course.

    In September 2014, just two months before the Koka incident, MTS outfitted all of its 35 or so officers with body cameras.

    The agency still doesn’t have a written policy for how its officers should use their body cameras, but Manny Guaderrama, MTS’s head of security, told us officers are supposed to turn their cameras on for all enforcement actions.

    MTS also doesn’t have a policy for releasing body-camera footage to the public. We received copies of the footage from Koka’s attorney and directly from MTS in a public records act request.

    Now, MTS plans to have all of the private security officers wear body cameras, too. It was part of a contract extension between MTS and the company, approved by the MTS board last week. MTS will pay the company up to $39 million over the next five years.

    MTS does not have a written policy for judging whether its officers have been too violent. Guaderrama or another member of MTS security leadership looks into each incident to determine if force was appropriate. If it wasn’t, Guaderrama can dole out punishment from a reprimand to dismissal.

    Koka’s case is still pending, but the MTS board discussed it last week during a closed session.

    City Councilman David Alvarez, a member of the MTS board, watched the body camera video of the Koka incident, and told VOSD and NBC his impression was there was a miscommunication that could have been resolved peacefully.

    “There should be corrective measures that are serious corrective measures – not just a slap on the wrist or a write-up,” he said.

    Indeed, another MTS officer managed to resolve the same situation peacefully just a few days earlier, Koka said. He showed up and was stopped by an MTS officer for not having his ID. Together, they walked to Koka’s boss’s office. The boss confirmed Koka worked there. Situation resolved.

    “It’s an interesting paradox here, or Catch-22,” Dale Dixon, Koka’s attorney, said in an interview. “Because if the position is, ‘MTS did exactly what they were supposed to do,’ then they have created policies that allow this ridiculous amount of force to be used when it’s absolutely unnecessary. And if they say, ‘These officers were doing something that they shouldn’t have done,’ well there are a dozen to 14 of them standing around, somebody with authority should have stepped in and said, ‘This isn’t appropriate.’ And nobody did that.”

    MTS’s court filings haven’t disputed many specific details in Koka’s version of events. In a legal filing last summer, MTS’s attorney wrote that Koka “was properly taken to the ground and handcuffed where his legs were bound to keep him from kicking.”

    MTS also filed a complaint against the cleaning service Koka worked for, NMS Management, for failing to give Koka an ID badge before he started work. In other words, they are blaming the cleaning service for the injuries MTS security guards are accused of inflicting on Koka.

    Koka now works at a gas station in Escondido.

    Asked if he likes his new job, Koka replied, “Yeah, nobody beats me.”

      This article relates to: MTS, Must Reads, Police Body Cameras, Public Safety

      David Gripon
      David Gripon subscriber

      You can be sure that the reason they decided to detain him even after the bosses verification was a purely ego driven decision by one or more of those guards. (note that I do not call them officers) If I had to venture a guess who one of the antagonistic guards was, it would be the guy that yanked him down by the throat. 

      I do not like when people defy the rules and when attempting to enforce them, however, I hate abuse of power much more. From what I read here, Koka was not defying the rules nor was he defying those who enforce the rules, because there was no rules being broken except by the guards.

      The supervisor that had to vouch for him the first time has some responsibility here, but only in that he failed to recognize a potential issue having dealt with it once already. However, he should not have to try and make decisions based upon the possibility of meeting up with a rogue guard.

      The blame needs to lie with those who directly contributed to this incident like, the guards that made first contact and the managers that rehired the 2 guards that had been the target of that previous lawsuit.. Whether the guards were the aggressor here or not, they should be terminated as well.

      Those who should face no ridicule, criticism or disciplinary action are the guards who were present, but did not participate. There is no way that they can be reasonably expected to try and restrain the officers involved in the tussle. No matter what action may be taken against them, it still will not prompt guards witnessing future incidents similar to this to take action against their fellow guards. AS they shouldn't nor should they have to choose to do so. They should not be held responsible for the administrators neglect.

      rhylton subscriber

      In today's What we learned this Week, Sara Libby recounts her experience with a lying, incompetent police woman, with a history that includes allegations of sexual harassment. The officer's lying fecklessness was established in court. The matter of the sexual harassment was settled at some cost to the City and, accordingly, is not confidential . The officer deserved to be named. She was not.

      I suspect that the MTS-connected people, in this matter, have been identified or are identifiable. They deserved publicity, but not of the anonymous kind. They deserve more and this publication has the power to give them some of what they deserve. Tell us who they are. We and their neighbours and friends need to know,

      Anonymity works to the benefit of abusers. 

      Dean Cunliffe
      Dean Cunliffe

      I find it amazing, that level of non-oversight continues to this day.

      I was assaulted by MTS officers about 10 years ago in El Cajon.

      I'll admit, I was at the trolley station, without a pass, or ticket, so I can say I had a weak position, as to why'd I be sitting on that bench.

      Even back then, MTS security had a shady reputation. First, they tend to travel in packs of three. Local law enforcement officials, don't independently confirm any supposed claims of accusations, and routinely take MTS security forces claims of violations, as undisputable.

      In my case, I was approached by two guards at the El Cajon trolley station.

      They asked for a ticket, or pass, and I told them I had none.

      This is the part where, normally, you get the option to buy a ticket, or leave with a infraction citation.

      Not this time! In hindsight I should have realized I was in trouble, in the manor of there approach.. I was seated on a bench, away from the platform, going through my backpack..they came up behind me and moved in on both sides. After asking about a ticket, I was slammed into the concrete and handcuffed. My head was bleeding, and I had a 250 pound guy on top of me.

      Ok, so here's the part that sucked for me. ECPD arrested me for assaulting an officer.......Um wait a minute, that's a feloney...

      So, a MTS trolley security guard, can have me charged, yup, that's right, with a Feloney!

      So, I got a head wound, concussion, and a Feloney, for a infraction.

      ECPD, as far as there concerned, whatever the guards say, is gospel

      And sent me to jail.

      MTS needs a Class Action suit against them, I can't be the only one..

      Thugs, with badges....

      Took 10 years, and about 5k, to get my security clearance back!

      Thieves, Criminals, and Thugs!

      Where's Turrko when you need him...

      Gabe Garcia
      Gabe Garcia

      Like most commenters, I find the MTS security personnel's actions described in this story to be reprehensible. While I have encountered a number of professional-acting security personnel, both employed directly by MTS and by their contractor, the majority are flat at best and hostile at worst. I have also witnessed numerous examples of their indifference to outright hostility toward MTS users, which is amazing since they are there to serve those customers. Given the rash of police related shootings being reported across the country, I am also very uncomfortable with these security guards being armed. I have used metro systems in other cities with same fare enforcement system where the guards were both unarmed and helpful (and it wasn't chaos - the environment still managed to feel safer). I'd be interested in seeing that type of change here in San Diego. As someone who is a daily user of public transit in San Diego, I find the whole system frustratingly un-user-friendly. The security guards are only part of the problem, but they should be one of the easiest to fix through training, evaluation and corrective action, as well as improved recruiting strategies in the future. 

      Donald Sexton
      Donald Sexton

      Typical of the corrupt terrorist-ridden kleptocracy. Exposing the goons, thugs, & terrorists may prevent further tragedy by avoiding them. Thanks for upholding your journalistic duty & imposing your press freedoms as well as accepting risks for protecting the public.

      richard brick
      richard brick subscribermember

      Both of these rent a cops should be tested for steroid use. I'll bet both have been using for a length of time. 

      Seems like MTS and the company's they contract with have very poor policies in dealing with the public. It seems the only policy they have is too escalate, intimidate, and if those don't work beat people to the point of hospitalization. School yard bullies with the mental capacity of a 5th grader. 

      SWARNER subscriber

      @richard brick This problem and culture goes pretty high up.  Both of these guys are Buck and Miner are both MTS employees and not subcontractors!    I am sure the subcontractors are no better and they were probably part of the crew the either stood by and did nothing or were part of it.  What is even more amazing is the Board of Directors just renewed the security firm contract.   I wonder if the KKK also bid on the security contract.    Why was the board of directors kept in the dark about these two thugs for so long.

      Josie Calderon
      Josie Calderon

      There is nothing new in this story that hasn’t been repeated over the years. The arrogance at MTS is unprecedented at all levels of authority and it starts at the top. Wake up and do your job MTS Board of Directors.

      SWARNER subscriber

      Mr. Brewster,

      It appears to me that even in the face of clear evidence you look for reasons to defend these racist scumbags.  I recommend before defending someone and giving them the benefit of the doubt, you look at their history.    I would suggest you look at the racist comments on their Facebook page.  Oh you can’t - they locked it down from public view after they knew they were being looked at.

      All you can say is that it seems, “very strange” that the officers are unwilling to accept the word of the “boss.”   It wasn’t strange. Based upon their pattern of racism, their motivation was clear.    They wanted to screw with this guy and illegally and in violation of his civil rights, false imprisoned him 30 minutes and then beat the living daylight out of him.   These bullies on the playground didn’t get the respect they think they deserve and wanted to punish him.   Have you heard of excessive force?   He was taken away in an ambulance and knocked unconscious.      There are good MTS officers and police out there.  You are disrespecting the good ones when you defend these guys.   You are not allowed to beat someone up because they won’t sign a ticket.   It wasn’t as simple as just sign the ticket and go on your way.  It isn’t the same as a speeding ticket.  Your analogy is simplistic.   When an officer tells you to sign a speeding ticket, he is only suppose to write that ticket when he believes you were speeding.  If he knew you weren’t speeding, he can’t just torment you and make you sign a ticket.    These bullies tormented him for 30 minutes.  They knew he was allowed to be there and “they weren’t done with him yet.”   Any reasonable person would be agitated when they knew they had done nothing wrong.  

      There way more than two issue of whether Mr. Koka should have been detained and cited.
      Yes, as a general rule, if someone doesn’t sign a ticket, the officer has the right to detain you  and arrest you.  They don’t have the right to use excessive force,  knock you unconscious and beat the hell of you.  The guy is only 5’4”.  How many officers does it take to arrest him?  Did they really have to grab him by the throat?     Why did they continue to detain him when they knew he was innocent.   Just because you are an officer, it doesn’t allow you to violate someone’s civil rights.  

      These officiers should be charged with false imprisonment and using excessive force  No different  than when a police unjustly shoots someone and is charged with murder. Wearing a badge doesn’t put you above the law.  Maybe the questions that should be asked is why are these officers being protected and not charged with a crime.  Why after so many complaints - were they not fired?

      Now let’s get to what you refer to as the, “strange” behavior that the officers weren’t willing to accept the word of the “boss.”  
      The officers had no right to give him a ticket once they knew he was allowed to be there.   Subsequently, they had no right to continue to detain him nor arrest him for refusing to sign this unlawful ticket.   An officer can only give you a ticket when they believe the charges are true.  It isn’t allowed to be used as a tool to bully someone.   The question that should be asked is why were they continuing down this illegal path
      Clearly the prosecutor agrees since Mr. Koda was not charged with a single crime.   No charges for refusing to sign the citation, no charges for trespassing, and no charges for resisting arrest.   

      Why is MTS protecting these guys when they clearly are getting so many complaints against them..

      The reason Mr. Koka didn’t sign the ticket is he barely spoke English and he knew he did nothing wrong.  He couldn’t read what he was signing.
      In Iraq, you sign something you don’t understand, you end up being put to death.  Did you watch the Amanda Knox trial?  

      There appears to be a culture of, “protect your own” at all costs  with the prosecutors office and with MTS.    Need I remind you of why the last Police Chief resigned in San Diego and not a signal official or fellow officer is being charged with covering up a crime when they knew that police officer was accosting women.  Maybe these two officers couldn’t read and thought it said,  “America Whitest City instead of American’s finest City” on the side of Police cars in San Diego.

      Shame on anyone who defends these guys.  We as good people need to stand up for people that are being picked on and can’t stand up for themselves.
      That is what America stands for.   

      Michael Russell
      Michael Russell subscriber

      This is a simple case of racist bullying. Jingoistic hate of the small Iraqi refugee mixed with boyish needs to get 'respect' for their pathetic rent-a-cop, can't carry a gun, position.

      The MTS guards are hired thugs, with low I.Q., and psychological problems. They need to be treated for the abuse and neglect they suffered as children, and socialized into compassionate human beings before being put into these positions of pseudo-authority. Most of these immature boys are suffering from erectile dysfunction, and feeling insecure, they pick on the weak, the confused, just because they can. Its the worst kind of ignorance, and doesn't belong in public service, not even in a transportation system.

      If only there was some kind of third party oversight, some way protecting citizens from them, of producing the social outrage that would hold these bullies accountable for their violent habits and abuse of ticket books. Oh, yeah, there is the press, and the civil courts. Now if we could just hold their bosses at MTS accountable, but they just will just pass on the costs to the taxpayers.

      I'd like to say that common sense could have avoided this situation. But common sense is what caused it, the same old testosterone deficient, overweight bullies that appear in every class-room and police academy, in every society across time. One day this pack of thugs will deal with a real warrior, not some helpless little foreign kid with PTSD, but someone trained and armed, and they will pay the price for their arrogance. Watch, they will go after someone who looks weak, someone who seems to be a victim, someone they should be protecting, and that will be their mistake. It's as predictable as a Bruce Willis movie, it's pathetic.

      Natalie M
      Natalie M

      Up to the point. Mr. Koka is from Iraq. Doesn't speak English well. Provided his ID to MTS security guards (while being an employee there) when asked to. Refused to sign a citation without understanding it in English (his right). And then bit up by MTS security guards. Where is the justice? Where are we going in this country? I hope it would not happen to me being a white blonde female bit up by MTS security guards.

      VJ Media
      VJ Media

      SD Transit management from 30+ years ago was not much different than the management of MTS today, much of that culture and mindset was passed along year after year. You see, regardless of the costs of lawsuits, the lawsuit settlements, penalties, thus any costs are paid for by YOU, the citizen. Therefore, employer negligence, brutality, age discrimination, ADA violations, OSHA, ..... those lawsuits, penalties, and court costs sanctioned by state and federal agencies are paid by the public, yep, that's you and I.

      Therefore, there are no incentives when the costs of poor management does not come from private individuals pockets. Consequently, decision-makers are shielded from monetary penalties and are not held financially (or ethically accountable).

      Basically,  there can be a mindset of who cares really, without accountability or corporate social responsibility, no penalty. All boils down to poor management decision-making without accountability that lacks the effort and follow-through of consistent discipline and good management.  It is horrible the way security treats some people. One warning should be given for 'minor' violations of a in-house security, but anything over a minor violations should be punished by immediate termination, at-will employment.

      Contracted security officers create as much, if not more liability for MTS. Therefore, any officer who receives more than one valid complaint should be immediately dismissed and not allowed to return to the property ever because they open up liability, create a poor image, and those power-driven bad apples should not take away from the good efforts made by most security officers or cost us taxpayers our hard-earned dollars.      

      Additionally, I feel bad for the wheelchair person story goes to inadequate training and management as well. Because bus operators do have one of the most difficult jobs dealing with all walks of life, attitudes.... every second they are behind the wheel drivers are responsible for the treatment and safety of every rider. With that said, shame on the lazy, gutless driver who would not shut down the bus until the passenger got out of the handicapped seating to allow this poor in the wheelchair to board. I guarantee you, if all the passengers and the driver insisted the passengers sitting in the handicapped seating get up to allow the wheelchair to board and the driver insisted on following procedures this type of incident would not happen as often.

      The driver is a poor example of what the majority of professional drivers who do help others.  Shame, shame, shame on the rude rider in the handicapped seating and the lazy driver.       

      Desde la Logan
      Desde la Logan subscriber

      She's filing a formal complaint. This incident happened shortly before the planning group meeting and she was fuming. I couldn't blame her. I would've shut the bus down and made the driver get a supervisor on site if the guy wouldn't move.

      Greg Chick
      Greg Chick subscriber

      Bring back Steve Blackwood as MTS security.   Ethical people need to be found thru screening.  Too many people in security jobs watch too much TV violence and want a pice of it.  Hate is too common in people and this needs to be screened out of security.  

      Gregory Hay
      Gregory Hay subscriber

      “Those two officers should be fired immediately,” he said in an interview. “Whoever at the time decided not to fire them should also be fired.”
      I simply cannot AGREE strongly enough with this. 

      Greg Chick
      Greg Chick subscriber

      We need behavioral health evaluations on all security and police and gun buyers.   That is right, power is abused and mental health is a serious aspect of abuse and power and gun owners, or should I say,  people have issues that need treatment.  

      Peter Johnson
      Peter Johnson subscribermember

      I cannot drive due to my disabilities and have used public transportation in Chicago (the city not the burbs), Seattle Portland and Washington DC. MTS has a bunch of problems (as Desde la Logan points out) and their security folk are the most inappropriate I've witnessed.

      I ride MTS daily and am not surprised this occurred. These guys are always seeing trouble where there isn't any. They constantly approach and, in my view, harass folk (mostly younger or poorly dressed) in gangs of two or three to one. They intimidate and just make things uneasy for some folk that may not fit their idea of okay.

      This is not to say all the security officers are like this and I understand when they check passes at the station or on the train of EVERYONE but there are those that just pick on one or two even though the person's pass is fine (happened to a guy who was sitting next to me, smelly and disheveled but his pass was good). They really need training!

      John H Borja
      John H Borja subscriber

      The people, the security people, that are on the job to protect lawful citizens over step their prerogatives when left to their own devices, prejudices, and personal biases. Security personnel on every level in the U.S. has been given a freer reign to make snap judgements, often without normal protocols. From TSA to the police to the sheriffs to MTS security. Fortunately, I was not hurt; physically, by their actions. But, my experience tells me that security training is not enough. We need surveillance of the people who are paid to serve the public. Abuses by these paid security people goes on daily for all kinds of people.These security people profile on their own and prosecute on their own. We all need to be protected. We all don't need to be hurt from  their protection.

      VJ Media
      VJ Media

      @John H Borja 

      I agree in part. However, all the body cams, evidence .... can be available in black and white. But if poor management does not take action, noting can be resolved. Bottom-line MTS has poor leadership, always has. From the rumors the HR Director was given the position by a city council person for a favor-owed. During the interview process a highly experienced HR black woman, and other qualified candidates were passed over for the position, which the job was ultimately 'handed' to the current HR Director (Who was not an HR professional or credentialed as such at the hiring time) who has been there for many years (not a-typical). This goes to the culture, structure, ethics, and accountability of management, the board, and political city influences.    

      Debbie Terry
      Debbie Terry subscribermember

      Manny Guaderrama, MTS’s head of security - Is that the Guaderrama that used to work for the SDPD

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      With respect to the arrest itself: Mr. Koka was given an option that is given every day to thousands of people in California. Sign the citation, which as the officer noted states that "without admitting guilt I promise to appear {in court}." When a person refuses to sign, they are arrested because they refuse to appear in court. I have experienced people refusing to sign innumerable times. Usually you can convince the person to sign, because no logical person prefers to be arrested and go to jail. Mr. Koka got some bad advice from his brother apparently and it caused him to refuse to sign and then to resist arrest. The officers are lawfully permitted to use the limited amount of force necessary to overcome his resistance. In this case, it would appear that his resistance was substantial.

      As for whether the officer should have cited him, I certainly do not know the policy, but it would appear that a person was on MTS property without proper identification and was not an employee of MTS. It would also appear that the company that "hired" him screwed him by failing to issue him an ID. My view is that his primary beef is with the cleaning company which put him in this situation in the first place. I concur that it seems very strange that the officer was unwilling to take the word of the "boss" that Mr. Koka was an employee. 

      Once the officer decided that a citation was appropriate though, Mr. Koka had two choices. 1) Sign it and be on his way. 2) Refuse to sign it and be arrested. The officer made very clear that those were his choices. Mr. Koka elected, by declining #!, to go with #2, and in that regard he decided to resist arrest, and announced that he would do so before doing so. Whether the officers used too much force in the arrest is impossible to determine based on the video.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      Mr. Gonzalez: As I noted, " I concur that it seems very strange that the officer was unwilling to take the word of the "boss" that Mr. Koka was an employee." There's no question though that Mr. Koka declined to sign the citation although he was clearly advised that if he did not he would be arrested.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      Agree. There are two issues here. Should Mr. Koka have been detained and cited? That is a very possible overreach. But it is never in your best interest to say to the officer, "I'm not signing and I'm going to resist arrest." Viewing this, I think Mr. Koka was planning to sign, until someone told him (in another language) not to do so. Bad advice. Also a bad idea (always) to resist arrest.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      I agree to an extent. A citation is technically simply an agreement to appear in court to contest the charges (i.e. for a judge to decide if the charges "stand up"). People do this every day and some percent of them are determined not guilty by the judge. The forum to contest the arrest is court.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      @Gregory Hay That may be a policy of MTS. I don't know. However, under California law anyone, including you and me, can arrest someone for a misdemeanor (or felony). Private security guards do this all the time. In this case the security officers alleged trespassing, which is a misdemeanor. 

      California Penal Code 837.  A private person may arrest another:

       1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence.

         2. When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in his presence.

         3. When a felony has been in fact committed, and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.

      Janet Shelton
      Janet Shelton subscriber

      @Chris Brewster Technically correct and so wrong.  And you are asking an innocent guy who has been cleared by management to these goons, a man who has done nothing wrong and who has to try to understand in the moment what is happening and to get that he is about to get the crap beat out of him for no reason.

      You can represent that there is a reason, but the reason appears to be that these guys enjoy their work.  When it happens to you, maybe you will get it, but you think it will never happen to you, don't you?  Because you are white, well-educated, smart, know the ropes.  

      The law is there to protect people, it is there to do the right thing.  When the law is correctly applied, there is kindness in it.  An acceptance that the owner or boss of the business says this is an employee and that he was doing do harm.  

      You just think because of your background that he deserved it because he didn't get that his innocence meant zip.  They had the right to beat him because he didn't have an ID badge.  That's it, isn't it?  His employer didn't get the risk, then vouched for him and he had to pay.  

      Sad to say, I have seen this kind of violence done to my own family.  One example.  My brother was type 1 diabetic and 911 was called because he fell to the ground with seizures.  Paramedics found his blood sugar at 52 but because he was thrashing and because cops responded asked for help.  I arrived and his neighbors and I begged them not to taze him due to heart problems,  and verified by paramedics dangerously low blood sugar.  Hold him down, give the glucagon.  No can do. He's thrashing while unconscious.  That's resisting arrest!  Might break a fingernail.  Taze him!!!  Taze him!!!  Done.  Now give him glucagon.  His crime.  Diabetic type 1.  Lucky they didn't charge him for resisting arrest.  

      I have more but I'll stop here and just say lucky he was white.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      Ms. Shelton: I respect your right to your opinion.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      Ms. Shelton: Every day, hundreds of people in California are faced with the same alternatives as this gentleman was. For example, every person cited for speeding by the CHP is asked to sign a citation, which is not admitting guilt, but agreeing to appear in court at a later date. Most sign the citation. Many do so believing they are innocent. Of those who refuse to do so, few resist arrest. As to whether these officers, "beat the crap" out of him, none of us know. What we know is that he refused to sign the citation and resisted arrest. Whether the officers used excessive force is a matter for a judge to decide. That is, was the force they used reasonable to overcome the resistance he offered. Since that is not on videotape, it is impossible for me to opine.

      Janet Shelton
      Janet Shelton subscriber

      @Chris Brewster Surely you can distinguish between a person stopped for speeding and a man who was just doing his job and who had people vouching for him that he was.

      You are opining and maybe you should stop.

      DavidM subscriber

      @Chris Brewster While I agree with the choices faced by someone when being given a ticket (and the bad advice apparently received just as he was about to sign) the MTS officers cannot actually arrest people with the same privileges as a Peace Officer.  They can detain, but should call "real" police if there's going to be an arrest.  

      It seems shocking to see a half dozen (or more) personnel surrounding one man who has already been vouched for by his supervisor (who presumably is known to the security guards).  This is particularly weird when other security guards have been able to get the same clearance and let the man work days earlier.

      This is a classic example of unnecessary escalation.  While the guards certainly had the discretion to write a citation, they also had the discretion to NOT write the citation.  

      Julie Wright
      Julie Wright subscribermember

      @Chris Brewster - I have read this entire chain and am impressed by the thoughtful discourse as opposed to those who just want to beat up MTS.

      Chris Brewster
      Chris Brewster subscribermember

      Ms. Wright: "MTS needs to review its hiring, training and oversight of all security officers." Unquestionably so, but here is where it gets sticky. MTS has decided to run their system based primarily on an honor system (i.e. customers buying tickets), backed up by random enforcement. This is cheaper than having turnstiles everywhere I suppose, but increases confrontations between security officers and riders. Officers are expected to write tickets as a routine. MTS are clearly focused on cost control. A typical police officer in California gets maybe 800 hours of training before working. These officers get maybe 1/4 of that. Also, I would imagine the background checks are not as stringent, etc. These MTS officers need more training. No question. But I think that goes across the board to all aspects of policing. To some degree, this sort of confrontation is a result of a decision to save money at the expense of training and skill. Contrast this system with New York, There you can't get on public transit without paying, so it is assumed that you have paid if you are there; and the system is patrolled by fully trained NYPD. So there are no partly trained people sent out to enforce rules. MTS may not wish to pay more for training, but I think you can't have it both ways. 

      Janet Shelton
      Janet Shelton subscriber

      @Chris Brewster I usually agree with you, but I think you are wrong here for a number of reasons.  Yours is the law enforcement point of view, but applied by people who are not trained.  We'll see what comes out of it, but these guys appear to get off on being abusive.  They invite the problem by ignoring evidence that there is not a problem.  And please don't pretend there are no consequences to signing the citation which should not have been issued in the first place.  If the account is true, they were presented clear evidence that the guy was an employee doing what he said he was doing but persisted in doing the wrong thing.  This is very bad because it leads to mistrust and disrespect for all the good officers who are working hard to do the right thing and puts them at risk.  And it is bad for the poor innocent guy who got hell beat out of him AFTER they had been informed that he was an employee properly doing his job. 

      Julie Wright
      Julie Wright subscribermember

      @Chris Brewster - Sorry, had not finished when I tried to make a paragraph and it posted.  One thing that is left out of this conversation is that the young man was Iraqi, had language difficulties (and we have to overlook all of the profanity not to judge), and was recovering from a violent attack, possibly exacerbating an existing injury and without question carrying stress from the previous attack.  It was the responsibility of the security officers to avoid escalating the incident -- they were in the position of power and with the number of officers surrounding the young man there was no danger to them.  Not listening to the man's supervisor was inexcusable.  It was the moment when everyone should have taken a pause and asked additional questions.  I'm a strong law-and-order person but I feel so sorry for this young man, who likely came here to escape violence and experienced completely un-needed violence.  All involved should pay with their jobs, if not more.  And MTS needs to review its hiring, training and oversight of all security officers.

      rhylton subscriber

      @Chris Brewster Your exchange with Marco is excellent.   It  seems to boil down to these three things: 1.non-english (or rudimentary english) speaking Arab newcomer;2. bad advice from ignorant Arabic speaker/supervisor/friend ;  3.severe defects in law-enforcement policies, practices and attitudes. I would be remiss and dishonest if I were not to admit that I believe the first two factors affected the third.. 

      marco gonzalez
      marco gonzalez subscribermember

      @Chris Brewster I absolutely disagree with your assessment of the situation. This is another example of repeat "bully" pseudo-cops abusing power because they can, because their peers don't step in to do the right thing, and because there is no accountability. The notion that the transit officer is in any way justified in his unwillingness to accept the representations of Koka's supervisor/brother as to his rightful presence in the yard is offensive. The fact is the rent-a-cops need to be trained to understand that they are not police officers, that their job is to ensure peace (not create chaos), and that they are hired by a governmental agency to serve the public (and not vice-versa). Your whole "just sign the ticket" argument is an apologists fallacy as well. So, Koka should have signed the ticket, not worked that night, and then garnered witnesses for a court date that would have further impeded his time to work at a job that doesn't pay much to begin with... all because an abusive authority figure was too lazy or stupid to resolve things in an appropriate way? No. Buck, Miner, MTS and the rest of them should pay, in a big way, first in cash, and then with their jobs. And I hope the jury enhances the award for the pathetic attempts to cover up their actions by taking off their body cameras.

      A big thanks to Keats and Rivard for their work on this story.

      marco gonzalez
      marco gonzalez subscribermember

      @Chris Brewster My point is that there is a bigger, social and economic justice based systemic dysfunction if we believe the time, effort, cost, and stigma of a totally unwarranted "ticket" can be ignored. "I don't like how you look, talk, and you don't seem to respect my power, so let me inconvenience your life to show you how much control I have over you." That's the mentality; that's what's wrong. The story indicates another officer easily resolved the same situation without the need for the power trip.

      Gregory Hay
      Gregory Hay subscriber

      But the officers CANNOT arrest anyone. It says so right in the story.

      Michael Russell
      Michael Russell subscriber

      @Julie Wright I think you have it backwards, these people don't want to beat up on MTS, they are just venting their frustration from years of abuse of authority, extortion, bullying and violence. This is the only place they've had any chance to revisit the MTS belligerent treatment of its customers and employees, because MTS is an isolated investor owned transport corporation, unaccountable to the public, and beyond direct communication. These victims and disgruntled public transport passengers have been harassed and abused for years, and the MTS police, like Buck and Miner are still working. The people here keep censoring my comments, let's see if they take this one down, too?

      BTW Chris Brewster is a former head of the SD Lifeguard Service, his 'measured' but unrelenting comments are coming from an authoritarian perspective to try to defend his own past.

      Matty Azure
      Matty Azure subscriber

      Dear MTS,

      We'll hire your security dudes, but they gotta remember to NOT turn on the camera.



      Desde la Logan
      Desde la Logan subscriber

      MTS is the worst. Especially when it comes to dealing with handicapped people. On Wednesday night wheelchair bound Barrio Logan Planning Group member Juanita Lopez was not allowed on the bus because the bus driver did not make an able bodied man move from the handicapped/elderly section. This forced her to wait in the rain for the next bus. It's time those running MTS be held accountable for the actions of the people bellow them.

      Julie Wright
      Julie Wright subscribermember

      @Desde la Logan - I'm not willing to slam MTS for individual issues but to set a high bar for their resolution.  In this instance, the driver should have simply said that the bus was not going to move until Ms. Lopez was accommodated.  And called his supervisor.  The man who refused to move -- if that is the case -- is reprehensible.