Metra’s Police Department is “a program in crisis,” according to a $200,000, 114-page outside report released Wednesday.
The suburban rail agency faces “serious challenges today in improving the Department’s ability to ensure the security and safety of riders, staff, assets and infrastructure,” according to the report’s introduction by Arnette Heintze, CEO of the Hillard Heintze law enforcement consulting group.
“I urge you and the Metra Board to view the Metra Police Department as a program in crisis — one in need of major transformation.”
The report found that the Metra police arrest rate was “remarkably low” and officers rarely road Metra trains — something it called “unusual” for a police department serving a commuter rail system.
The $200,000 report by Hillard Heintze — cofounded by former Chicago Police Supt. Terry Hillard — covered several areas already reported on by the Chicago Sun-Times months ago, including that Metra police were racking up extensive overtime.
Metra Board member Jack Schaffer blamed the excessive overtime on extraordinary events, like the NATO summit and a Black Hawks championship rally. He said many of the red flags raised by the Aug. 28 report have already been addressed.
However, the report called the Metra police department’s mission “antiquated.” The analysis should prompt Metra leaders to “come to grips with what we want our police department to be” and perhaps consider forging agreements with surrounding departments or a “rent-a-cop” agency to provide backup during unusual events, Schaffer said
“Most railroad police departments are there to protect property, not people,’’ Schaffer said. “Over the years we’ve had a small kind of Mayberry operation. With the challenges we now have, with terrorism and crime, what should be the role ofour police department?”
If the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns of a credible transit threat, Metra needs to be prepared with “Plan B,’’ Schaffer said.
Schaffer said he was a bit frustrated that the Hillard-Heintze report listed numerous recommendations, without putting a price tag on each one.
One recommendation includes selecting a new police chief. This month the Metra board agreed to a $100,000, 60-day deal that would allow Hillard Heintzeexecutive Harvey Radneyto serve as interim police chief while Hillard-Heintze helps Metra find a permanent chief.
Find the report here: