New report finds Metra police force 'antiquated'

January 22, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Metra has a police force of just over 100. Over the years, it's had issues. Metra wanted an outside review, and on Wednesday released a report that is a stinger.

The law enforcement advisory firm Hillard Heintze says the Metra police force has suffered from an "absence of leadership", burdened by an "overtime budget that is extremely high..." with officer training that is "poorly coordinated," often "lacking in the basics," and most significantly that its mission is "antiquated", and "very unclear," with an emphasis on protecting property and equipment first.

"Passenger safety has always been important to Metra, but we want to help shape and shift that key message to where that is number one," said Arnette Heintze, Hillard Heintze.

Which suggests a lesser emphasis on cops in squads patrolling property and more officers patrolling on trains-- in uniforms or plainclothes-- which Metra says is already being done.

"Our mission is going to be refocused so we can identify areas that we can improve. That was one of the areas in the recommendations and since mid-2013 over 3,400 trains that have been ridden," said Don Orseno, interim executive director, Metra.

Metra insists that passengers have never been at risk and that its cops are pros, but it is beginning a top to bottom remake of a department that has had systemic problems with enormous ground to cover.

All this suggests that Metra may need to add more police officers. That may or may not be the case. Metra says it won't know until its police mission statement is fully revised in the next couple months.

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