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Metra sets out to modernize its police department

(January 22, 2014) - 

Metra said Wednesday that it has begun to implement the recommendations of an independent, in-depth assessment of its police department so that it is better prepared to ensure the safety and security of riders, staff, assets and infrastructure.

In Oct. 2012, Metra hired Hillard Heintze, a nationally recognized law-enforcement advisory firm, to perform as assessment of the department’s operations and capabilities and provide assistance in adopting best practices in railroad public safety. Given the ever-changing challenges in the law-enforcement environment, particularly in regards to transportation security, police departments across the country are looking to their peers to identify ways to improve overall readiness, efficiency and effectiveness.

Hillard Heintze issued its final report August 28. It includes 50 recommendations that the department should implement in key areas in order to support Metra’s mission and the department’s internal and external stakeholders. Metra is fully committed to carrying out the recommendations within its available resources to create the best police department possible.

“Our trains are safe, and the men and women who make up our police department are top-notch professionals who are committed and dedicated to their jobs,” said Metra Interim Executive Director Don Orseno. “This report gives us a roadmap for how we can better support the good men and women who serve in our police department every day and teaches us what we need to do to enhance the security and safety of our ridership, our operations and our infrastructure.”

“We found that the department has many elements of a solid foundation in place and a dedicated workforce,” said Arnette Heintze, the firm’s CEO. “But it also was clear that Metra needs to focus on steering its department from its original mandate of asset protection to focusing on passenger safety, crime prevention, homeland security and greater customer service to riders.”

Metra has retained Hillard Heintze for 60 days to help define the department’s mission, continue implementing reforms and help with the search for a new chief. In the interim, Harvey L. Radney, a Hillard Heintze senior advisor and former deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, is serving as chief of the Metra Police Department.

Below are some of report’s recommendations and some of Metra’s responses. Implementing some of the recommendations will take time; Metra will use monthly Board of Directors meetings to provide frequent updates about the status of reforming its police department.

Mission and Strategy
Hillard Heintze recommended that Metra clarify the mandate for its department, realign the department’s mission with its mandate and develop a formal strategic plan for the department. Metra agrees with the need to redefine the mission of its department and recognizes the need for its direction and vision to be updated to reflect modern challenges – in fact, this was one of the reasons that the assessment was commissioned.

Operations and Equipment
Hillard Heintze made several recommendations to upgrade the department’s operations and equipment. Metra has already enacted some of the recommendations. For instance, it does now regularly conduct on-train patrols, it has upgraded its squad cars, mobile data terminals and radios and it has reduced the workload of the operations commander. Other recommendations will be reviewed and/or enacted as the department’s mission is revised, as new leadership is hired and as resources allow.

Internal Affairs and Discipline
Hillard Heintze recommended creating an internal affairs unit and giving the chief of police a stronger role in its activities. Metra agrees with the need for internal affairs; it already has trained one officer specifically in this area and is looking to train more. A formal unit would be appropriate if resources allow.

Hillard Heintze recommended more training for rank-and-file officers, supervisors and command officers in a number of areas. Metra has already taken steps to increase training. Last year, for instance, the operations commander was sent to command officer training. Regarding weapons qualifications, all officers are now current on their qualifications and receive training four times a year, instead of the required once a year.

Policies and Procedures
Hillard Heintze recommended that Metra undertake a strategic review of its policies and procedures in a variety of areas. A policy review is now taking place and will continue once the mission of the department has been revised and new leadership is in place. This will include a use of force policy that incorporates guidelines for pepper spray. A new General Orders Manual is being drafted. A general vehicle pursuit policy has been drafted.

Hillard Heintze recommended that the department use the latest technology to its advantage. Metra has already installed cameras at many of its stations and already uses Computer-Aided Dispatch and Record Management System to map calls for service, identify trends and allocate resources. A software solution would be helpful but expensive.

Staffing, Personnel and Overtime
Hillard Heintze recommended ways to more efficiently use its personnel. Once the department has a new mission statement, strategic plan and leadership Metra will thoroughly review its deployment, allocation of resources and overtime to ensure they are appropriate for the overhauled department’s needs.

Download Don Orseno's Remarks


Download Hillard Heintze Report
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