Guns pointed at Edmonton bus drivers in separate incidents: union

The union that represents Edmonton Transit Service operators says a gun was pointed at a bus driver on two separate occasions over the past 10 days.

The incidents are raising more questions about safety on the transit network.

“It’s a very traumatic experience for an operator, I can tell you. It’s not an easy day to go home from an incident like that, particularly when a firearm is pointed at you,” Steve Bradshaw of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 told CTV News Edmonton.

No one was physically injured as a result of the altercations, he said.

Bradshaw says the incidents are not believed to be related, and as far as he’s aware, neither individual has been arrested.

“The drivers are traumatized, but they’re recovering. They’re strong individuals, and they’re coming along. They’ve had a little bit of time off and they’re getting the appropriate support.”

The city has approved funding for 35 new transit peace officers, but Bradshaw says hiring and training the officers takes a significant amount of time.

“By the time you get from that posting to that fully active transit peace officer, we’re talking something like six months.”

He also wants to see more powers granted to those officers.

“They don’t have authority to enforce, for example, the mental health act, they need to be able to do that. They need to be able to make arrests for outstanding warrants. They can’t do that.”

He says there are even limitations to getting an officer to a scene when an event is unfolding.

“When a peace officer is called out to an emergency or to an urgent situation like that, they’re prohibited from using the flashing lights and the siren so that they can exceed the traffic rules and get there as quickly as possible.”

“They should be able to use them, they need to get to those urgent calls as quickly as possible. If it takes a little more training, so be it.”

Edmonton Transit Service says the new officers will likely be on the job by fall.

“We will be prioritizing additional staff to overnight teams, proactive enforcement and transit peace officer presence on buses as we bring on new staff members,” Ryan Birch of ETS said in a written statement.

He added the description of one of the suspects has been passed along to police.

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, a former transit operator, is concerned about the violence in the transit system.

“When I was a bus driver…I had some scary moments but I had never seen any guns,” he told CTV News.

“This is very concerning having two incidents over the past two weeks.”

Sohi added the union and the city are working together to add more security within ETS.

“We are doing what we can, we are increasing more transit security officers.”