Commuting with Confidence: Introducing CapMetro’s Transit Police Department

Eric Robins and staff

We love what we do. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Since 1985, CapMetro has worked every day to deliver the best possible transit experience for all customers.

At the heart of what we do are our frontline staff, including our operators, engineers, and conductors. Without them, buses, trains and our other service vehicles wouldn’t run and communities wouldn’t move or feel connected. Our whole community depends on our operators to deliver safe and high-quality public transportation on every trip—sometimes over 2 million trips a month!

As our transit network has grown, so have our responsibilities. And that’s why, in 2025, we will introduce a new phase of our Public Safety Program, that will continue to allow the agency to deliver the best transit experience for all.

Laying the Foundation 

Let’s wind the clock back to 2021. Back when we were all adjusting to experiencing life through a computer screen, our staff was spending countless hours meeting with members of the community about public safety on our transit system.    

One solution to a rapidly growing community and not to mention, a growing transit agency – was to establish a Transit Police Department as the third branch of our Public Safety Program.  

But why Transit Police? 

“The bottom line is that this somewhat new approach with three specialized teams is designed to address each type of safety incident effectively with the right resources,” said Garden Tabon, Chief Safety Officer. “Not every safety incident can be addressed the same, but with these three teams, we can build toward a safer transit experience for customers and our frontline team – and this allows us to get our customers and staff the support they need much quicker.” 

 Currently, we partner with local law enforcement agencies who provide support when needed. 

The CapMetro Board agreed that we need to build a team of transit-dedicated officers for instances when law enforcement is truly needed. They will live and breathe our system and will be trained in people-centric policing, crisis intervention, and fair & impartial policing.  

And so, the foundation of our Transit Police Team was set.  

“Our new team’s approach to public safety will create a culture of mutual understanding and respect for the safety of all who share our transit network.” 
— Eric Robins, Chief Administrator

Building Relationships and Creating Solutions, Together 

Safety is core to CapMetro’s values. To provide effective public transit means providing safe and reliable public transit.  Having a public safety presence at our transit stops and stations will keep our system moving, allow customers and staff to feel more secure and it give our officers and customers the opportunity to build relationships with one another.    

After the board’s approval in August 2021came an important next step: finding the right person to guide us forward. We embarked on an extensive engagement process to outline the qualities of the person our transit community needed. What we heard from the community and the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) was the need for a person with the necessary foundational policing experience, the ability to adapt and innovate, and the desire to keep all people safe from harm. 

In July 2022, after robust connections, considerations, and conversations, the CapMetro board approved the hire of Chief Administrator, Eric Robins, to lead the way. Once the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) certifies the department, which is expected later this year, Robins will serve as the Chief of Police. 

Robins has had extensive conversations with both our staff and community to understand their needs and lay the foundations for the new team.  

The mission and vision became clear through these conversations. Slowly, the team started coming together, with the additions of Assistant Chief Joseph Rose and Captain Jeremy Benoit. 

Eric Robins and staff
CapMetro’s Chief Administrator- Transit Police, Eric Robins, speaking to members of our Team at one of our facilities. Robins will serve as the Chief of Police once CapMetro is TCOLE certified.

The approach is creating a transit environment through people-centric policing to get everyone safely to their destinations.  

“We have a unique and exciting opportunity to create a new culture of safety alongside our community,” said Eric Robins, Chief Administrator. “Our new team’s approach to public safety will create a culture of mutual understanding and respect for the safety of all who share our transit network.” 

To accomplish that mission, the team needs to create a model of transit policing where all feel understood, welcomed, and safe when choosing to ride CapMetro. 

The team continues to provide progress updates and invite community dialog to this day. Multiple opportunities to engage and stay up to date are planned as we build towards certification.  

A transit system that is safe for all is a transit system that is equitable for all. 

Let’s R.I.D.E. 

The team now awaits a critical milestone. As mentioned, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) needs to certify all the team’s policies and procedures before they can be legally considered a police department. 

We expect this to happen in the summer of 2024. Once TCOLE certified, we can start hiring the first officers, which we plan to do beginning in 2025. 

The pieces continued coming together, but you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know who or where you are. 

Embodied in every current and future team member is the R.I.D.E. philosophy.  

  • Responsible: Accountable to our customers, frontline staff and the transit community 
  • Innovative: Cultivate non-traditional policing with appropriate  
  • Dedicated: Committed to building a safe system and environment together 
  • Empathetic: Aim to understand and respect all situations and people encountered 

This identity and guiding principle espoused by a future first-class will work toward creating an atmosphere of trust within our community. Their presence on our system will give staff and our transit community alike the confidence to ride by deterring bad behavior and responding quickly and appropriately when needed.  

“Our new Transit Police team’s single mission is getting people to and from their destinations safely,” continues Robins. “We’re building a team of dedicated people who are committed to this mission and want to be a part of a new and innovative approach to safety with our three-team concept.” 

Our Transit Police Officers will be dedicated to making a positive difference in the experiences and lives of the transit community they serve.  

The uniqueness of CapMetro’s future Transit Police Officers is how they’ll work hand-in-hand with the Public Safety Ambassadors (PSA’s) and Community Intervention Specialists (CIS’). Our agency’s approach to public safety is built on having these three teams work in tandem to provide the appropriate response quickly to any given situation. This will accomplish our goal to keep frontline staff and our transit community safe when aboard our vehicles and at our bus stops and train stations. 

Looking Ahead 

We’re always on the move to help you move. That’s why we’re taking this unique opportunity and   new journey to deliver one of our core values with great care and respect.   

Building something from the ground up is hard work. Especially when that something is a police department. You need to do it in an innovative way. But when the result is an opportunity for our transit community to safely use and enjoy public transit to connect with schools, healthcare, work, or play, then the hard work is work worth doing.  

The last part of our Public Safety series will highlight our Community Intervention Specialists, the outreach team that provides support for individuals experiencing homelessness and facing challenges related to mental health or substance abuse.