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Originally published Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 10:57 AM

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King County Metro Transit to replace tunnel security firm

King County Metro Transit is planning within the next few days to replace Olympic Security, the firm whose guards called police but didn't intervene while a girl was kicked in the head at Westlake Station Jan. 28.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

King County Metro Transit is planning within the next few days to replace Olympic Security, the firm whose guards called police but didn't intervene while a girl was kicked in the head at Westlake Station Jan. 28.

Kevin Desmond, general manager of Metro Transit, talked about the change Tuesday during a County Council committee briefing. Though crime is generally low inside the Seattle transit tunnel, video of last month's assault angered people here and around the country.

He said after the briefing that "in a matter of days" he'll announce a plan, involving another security firm in the tunnel.

For nearly five years, Olympic's unarmed security guards have been under work rules to avoid intervening physically. Now they are getting a few hours of additional training, while the county has assigned armed King County sheriff's deputies to tunnel stations.

"Olympic Security will be there for a little while," Desmond told elected officials. "We do need to transition to a different look and feel in the future. I want to reassure the public that the situation in that video will not happen again."

Olympic's five-year contract with Metro expires this fall, and Desmond said it would be modified before then. Olympic would continue various property-protection duties, and continue to patrol other Metro sites, just not the tunnel.

Laird Harris, a spokesman for Olympic, said there have been no detailed talks yet about its guards' tunnel duties changing or being discontinued.

"It just wants to continue to do the best job possible," he said of the company.

Metro previously hired off-duty Seattle police at all five tunnel stations, from 1990 to 2005. The agency now uses a countywide transit police force that typically includes two deputies in the tunnel; less-expensive, unarmed guards were hired to "observe and report" at all stations.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

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