Security guards who look a lot like police officers patrol San Diego trolleys, buses and station platforms.

But who are the uniformed men and women, and what, exactly, are they allowed to do?

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, or MTS, employs a small number of its own officers and also contracts with a private security company, Universal Protection Services. The officers have a limited set of powers depending on whether they’re MTS employees or Universal Protection Services contractors.

Only those employed directly by MTS are permitted to write citations, for example, while those employed by Universal Protection Services are there to give out warnings or defuse trouble. MTS employees can’t carry a gun, while private security guards who get licensed by the state can.

Over the years, both Universal Protection Services and MTS  have been named in several lawsuits alleging improper use of force against the public. MTS board members approved a new contract with Universal Protection Services last week.

On this week’s San Diego Explained, VOSD’s Andrew Keatts and NBC 7 San Diego’s Mark Mullen dive into the roles of MTS officers, the powers they have and the problems that have arisen under the current system.

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