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MTA Approves Controversial Hiring Of 500 Additional Police Officers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The MTA board voted 9-3 Wednesday to add hundreds of police officers to the subway system.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo first called for their hiring in September to stop fare evaders and step up safety.

The MTA says the 500 additional uniformed officers are necessary to combat a rise in crime on the subways.

However, the plan sparked controversy, and protesters fear it will unfairly target people of color.

There were four separate outbursts during Wednesday's board meeting, and five people were issued summonses for disorderly conduct.

"The goal is to do this on a racially non-discriminatory basis," MTA Chairman Pat Foye said.

MORE: MTA Plan To Put Hundreds Of Police Officers In Subway System Sparks Funding Fight

Starting next month, the MTA will have a total of about 1,300 officers patrolling trains, platforms and turnstiles. So who's in charge of them - the MTA or NYPD?

"The MTA police and the NYPD work closely and cooperate and collaborate closely, and I have every reason to expect that to continue," Foye said.

It's part of a four-year plan that avoids budget-driven service cuts but spends $249 million to hire the officers.

"The 500 are going to cover Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, as well," said Foye. "That is hardly the militarization of the subways."

Earlier this week, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed the plan in a three-page letter, tweeting, "Punishing the poor does not create a safer environment."

The MTA snapped back, saying, "We will not engage in politics when it comes to public safety." The agency went on to say hate crimes in the subway are up more than 50%, robberies are up 11.5% and aggravated harassment is up 167%.

Some riders were happy to hear a boost of blue is coming.

"I want them right now," said George Morrison, of Bushwick.

Opponents argued the money should be spent on improving service instead.

"No more cops! Riders need a service hike!" protesters chanted Tuesday night across from MTA headquarters.

Recent transit incidents, like a woman taken into custody for selling churros at a Brooklyn subway station and the arrest of a candy vendor, also sparked outrage.

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