Independent Report Criticizes Metra Police

Study by Hillard Heintze says officers lacked training, weapons qualifications

A report released Wednesday does not paint a good picture of the Metra Police Department.

The study, compiled by risk management firm Hillard Heintze, determined the rail agency's police department lacked training in the use of force, weapons qualifications, and several other important police procedures. It also said the department is manned by officers who don't put passengers first.

"What we found, is when the police function was established with Metra from the beginning, it was focused primarily around protecting assets and physical things," CEO Arnette Heintze said in the study. "Passenger safety has always been important to Metra, but what we want to do is shift and shape that key messaging to where that is number one."

Despite the study's findings, Metra interim executive director Don Orseno stands by the force.

"Our trains are safe and we believe our riders believe that," Orseno said.

Hillard Heintze was hired in 2012 to analyze Metra's security and safety procedures and submitted its final report in August. Metra did not release it until Wednesday because it was waiting for all of its board members to review it, which happened four months ago.

"We looked at it, and analyzed it, and worked through a lot of the issues, so that's what took the time," Orseno said.

Metra officials said they began to make improvements to the police department even before the report was submitted.

Passengers who spoke with NBC Chicago said they feel safe riding Metra. Dogs and officers are often present at the stations.

Metra's police chief stepped down last week and was replaced with an interim chief. Officials said that had nothing to do with the pending release of the report.

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