“We’re spinning our wheels with no traction”: Police and Transit Peace Officer Experiences with and Perceptions of Violence, Safety, and Vulnerable Persons on Transit

  • Author / Creator
    Geldart, Rachel Lynn
  • Extant scholarly work has explored multiple aspects of transit safety and security issues. It tends to focus on increasing actual or perceived safety on public transit, including crime prevention through environmental design and increasing safety for vulnerable transit users and community members (e.g., women, people experiencing homelessness). However, much less is known about how police and peace officers perceive and experience policing public transit (on buses, light rapid transit (LRT) train cars, in stations/centres), especially in the Canadian context. To uncover these nuances, I conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 11 Edmonton Police Service (EPS) police officers, 16 Edmonton transit peace officers (TPOs), one high-ranking City of Edmonton employee, and one outreach worker from a local social agency. Results show that police officers and TPOs experienced a dual failure in their official and unofficial policing duties. First, due to a perceived lack of authority, officers felt unable to enforce transit bylaws and could not rely on the criminal justice system to enact appropriate consequences. As such, they felt unable to provide and ensure safety on transit for the public, vulnerable people, and themselves. Second, officers believed existing social services were often inappropriate, unavailable, and inaccessible for vulnerable people, especially those who needed immediate care, which limited their options to divert individuals in crisis out of the transit system. When officers offered help to vulnerable people (e.g., transport to services, treatment resources, etc.), they received constant refusals. Both police officers and TPOs felt extremely ineffective at keeping transit safe and providing suitable alternatives to transit, fuelling feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, and cynicism. Findings suggest the urgent and critical need for increased integration of law enforcement and social agencies to improve safety outcomes on transit and provide vulnerable people with proper care.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2024
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.