Subway and commuter rail riders will be discouraged from bringing briefcases or backpacks on board during the week of the Democratic National Convention, and any passenger who does have a bag or parcel may be subject to having it searched, MBTA officials said yesterday.
T police said they are seeking additional officers from other law enforcement agencies to conduct spot baggage searches at all 200 subway and commuter rail stations in Greater Boston, though they stressed that details of the plan have yet to be worked out
"We're asking people not to bring bags or parcels on with them that week," said T spokesman Joe Pesaturo. "If they do, they should not be surprised if they are stopped."
The policy could complicate the commute for residents that week, especially with the city and the T encouraging people to ride the trains, rather than drive into Boston.
"It involves everyone," Pesaturo said. "It's a week of extraordinary security measures."
When asked about the logistics of checking large numbers of passengers carrying bags during the convention and whether that might produce delays or long lines, Pesaturo said he could not discuss details. But he promised a comprehensive public-education campaign explaining all procedures within the next few days.
The policy, for the convention week of July 26, is in addition to a random-check policy that the T will begin next month.
Under that program, which was prompted by the bombing of trains in Madrid, four teams of police officers will fan out to different stations every day and randomly stop people carrying bags or parcels.
The agency is already facing criticism for that approach, and yesterday, Joseph Carter, police chief for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, met with civil liberties advocates who are concerned that the searches will be intrusive and might be based on profiling.
Carter said the officers conducting the search will primarily use an explosives detection device to scan the bags. If those devices are not available, the teams will use dogs trained to detect bombs, and, as a last resort, manual inspection, where riders will have to allow their backpacks and handbags to be opened.
The inspections "will be conducted on a systematic, random sampling basis, to eliminate the element of discretion," Carter said. It "will be limited in scope and duration and conducted in the least intrusive manner possible."
Passengers have the option to refuse an inspection, but they won't be allowed to ride the subway or commuter rail. If they insist on riding the T, they will first be warned and then arrested for trespassing if they proceed, Carter said.
The rest of the article is worth reading, too. It raises concerns about what police will do if they find drugs or something in someone's bag during a search, and it also talks about how they decided not to have a public hearing about this policy.