Al Stiehler. Photo courtesy MTS

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Wednesday named a veteran transportation leader who helped run  transit systems in New York and New Jersey as director of transit security and passenger safety.

Al Stiehler, who most recently served as chief of field operations for New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority — the largest transit system in the United States — begins his new role Monday.

“As a longtime transit employee, Al Stiehler has proven progressive experience in transit enforcement, investigations and staff supervision,” said Nathan Fletcher, MTS board chair and San Diego County supervisor. “I have absolute confidence in his ability to provide the leadership and expertise we need to continue improving the safety and security of our passengers and employees.”

Stiehler will oversee 64 internal MTS code compliance inspectors and 158 contracted security officers. Officers work in teams of two and are responsible for patrolling 54 stations, three trolley lines and 95 bus routes.

“I am excited about this opportunity,” Stiehler said in a statement released by the transit agency. “MTS is on a path forward with strong and engaged leadership. This proactive approach and willingness to change allows me to come in and build on the work that has already been accomplished.”

Since July, in the wake of the national protests over the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MTS has been changing its security policies and procedures, including:

  • Adopting many of the principles in the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign as a guideline for its use-of-force policy
  • Banning carotid restraints and choke holds, including the prohibition of using knee pressure on the neck, throat or head
  • Adopting a “duty to intervene” if MTS security officers witness excessive force by another employee
  • Implementing a fare citation diversion pilot program to help riders caught without a fare avoid court fees and criminal citation
  • Conducting a third-party peer review of its security policies and procedures, which includes a community-based steering committee to assist with recommendations

“I look forward to working closely with Mr. Stiehler in this new chapter for MTS passenger safety and security,” said MTS board member Monica Montgomery Steppe, who chairs the agency’s Public Security Committee. “We’ve made significant progress to reshape the way MTS manages passenger security and with Mr. Stiehler’s help, we can continue the momentum.”

Stiehler has served as the chief of field operations for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority since 2017. He previously spent 30 years in various law enforcement positions at the New Jersey Transit Police Department, including deputy chief of police and field operations.

“MTS engaged in a national search to find the right candidate to continue improving how we handle security and enforcement,” said MTS CEO Sharon Cooney. “We had a great deal of interest in the position, in part due to the exciting changes we are implementing here in San Diego.”

While in his roles in New York and New Jersey, Stiehler developed a homeless assistance program to secure permanent housing and mental health for people experiencing homelessness at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal, devised and managed the fare inspection program on New Jersey Transit’s light rail system, and received the New Jersey Transit Police Department Excellent Police Service Medal.

Stiehler takes over for Manny Guaderrama, who retired in late August.

–City News Service