Scathing report released on Metra: Are commuters’ safety at risk?

A scathing report was released Wednesday about Metra’s police department. Is it putting commuters’ safety at risk?

Recent commuter nightmares and a patronage scandal have Metra passengers less than confident in the rail system. Now, a security firm’s report scrutinizes Metra’s 105-member police force.  It raises concerns about a department it says is “antiquated” and deficient, and does not have your safety as it’s No. 1 priority.

“Whenever you invite scrutiny like we did, you’re going to find out your shortcomings,” said Metra Interim Executive Director Don Orseno.

Those shortcomings are spelled out in a 90-page report that’s complex, comprehensive and very direct.  It outlines 50 recommendations that Metra’s Police Department needs to make in order to deliver a higher level of service.  The two areas are safety and security matters, and enhancing the commuter experience.

The report found Metra’s mission to be antiquated. Protecting assets and property was number one, and not passenger safety.

“Passenger safety has always been important to Metra, but we want to help share and shift that key messaging where that s number one,” said Arnette Heintze with Hillard Heintze.

One glaring concern is that investigators found Metra officers had not had any firearms qualifications training in more than two years.  The Chicago Tribune reports that Metra immediately asked the security firm to stop it’s assessment and oversee certification to get the officers up to regulation. Now officers will be certified four times a year, more than the once a year requirement.

This is especially important since the report stated, besides passenger safety, Metra needs to focus it’s efforts on crime prevention and homeland security.

Since August, uniformed officers have ridden 3,400 trains. Soon, passengers will see them regularly.

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