The Metra Board of Directors today approved two agreements with Cook County that will allow the agency’s Police Department to put more officers in the field and operate more effectively and efficiently.
In the first agreement, tickets issued by Metra Police officers in Cook County for violations of ordinances that protect Metra passengers and property, including vandalism, theft, disorderly conduct and trespassing, will be adjudicated by the Cook County Department of Administrative Hearings.
Currently, Metra Police officers make arrests for misdemeanor violations of state laws and the cases are adjudicated in and fines are collected by the Circuit Court of Cook County. This process requires officers to go through a sometimes cumbersome booking process and be present for court dates, often repeatedly for the same case. Metra estimates that officers spend 350 to 400 hours a year on arrests and bookings in Cook County, and 500 to 540 hours a year in court, including 300 to 400 overtime hours.
By using adjudication services provided by the Cook County Department of Administrative Hearings, Metra Police officers will no longer need to be present in court in most cases, reducing overtime costs and enabling the officers to spend more time in the field and on patrol. Under this agreement, Metra and Cook County will also share the revenue collected from any citations issued by Metra Police officers.
In the second agreement, Metra will pay the Cook County Sheriff to provide 24-hour dispatching service to Metra for 911 calls. The agreement is for five years with a two-year renewal option. Metra Police officers currently staff and operate an in-house dispatch center to monitor police activity on Metra property and communicate with local municipalities or Metra officers in the event of an emergency. By contracting with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, calls to 911 will be managed by Sheriff’s Office dispatchers, allowing nine currently assigned Metra Police officers to return to police duties.
“These two agreements are strong examples of ways in which local government agencies can work together to find efficiencies and maximize resources,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno, “Cook County has been a good partner to us and we look forward to their continued support.”
“These new arrangements will free up officers to spend more time on active patrols, which will provide more protection to our customers while also reducing overtime costs,” said Metra Police Chief Joseph Perez. “This is just one more way that Metra is reinvigorating its Police Department to make it a more modern, efficient and effective force.”
The Metra Police Department has approximately 100 officers and is responsible for the security of Metra’s 11 rail lines and 241 stations. The combined impact of these two agreements will increase Metra’s police presence by approximately 10 percent.
Metra embarked on a series of initiatives last year aimed at making the Metra Police more efficient and responsive to the needs of the agency and its customers, including reducing overtime costs by assigning manpower based on shift activity level; assigning officers based on geographic area instead of rail line; regular training on criminal and traffic law, accident reconstruction and firearms; the implementation of field reporting using laptop computers and an overhaul of the agency’s police dispatch and reporting system.
The department also started a new police squad in March whose primary mission is to patrol trains, providing a visible law enforcement presence and deterring criminal activity onboard trains.
Both agreements will be considered by the Cook County Board of Commissioners at its next scheduled meeting.
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