Client’s Challenge: Measuring Risk on the Rails

Broader Chicago’s Metra rail system is the second-largest and one of the most complex commuter rail networks in the United States. Ensuring the safety of its riders, staff and infrastructure is vital for many reasons. One is the size of the population – $8 million people – and the fact that Metra delivers more than 81 million rides per year. A second is the scope of its operations: 1,100 miles of track, 800 bridges and 700 trains serving 241 stations every day. Other security- and safety-related issues include crime activity, accidents, weather, utility outages and periodic homeland security and counter-terror alerts.

Our Solution: An Independent Assessment of the Transit Agency’s Police Department

In August 2012, Metra’s Executive Director requested that Hillard Heintze conduct a comprehensive and independent assessment of the Metra Police Department (MPD) and present Metra’s management team with key findings and recommendations on aligning the MPD with policing best practices in use by comparable commuter rail systems. This was the second time the agency had called on the firm. In 2010 and 2011, after the untimely death of the agency’s Executive Director Phil Pagano, Metra tapped Hillard Heintze to serve as its interim Office of Inspector General. (See “Trouble on the Tracks,” Case Study #143)

Impact on the Client: A Spotlight with Critical Changes Needed – Almost Across the Board

The Hillard Heintze team’s findings were extensive and far-reaching. As outlined in the final report which Metra released to the public, Hillard Heintze highlighted (1) an antiquated and unclear mission and the need for an explicit reference to passenger security as a top priority; (2) ineffective and, in many cases, nonexistent policies and procedures; (3) the lack of rational staffing and patrol plans; (4) excessive overtime expenses; (5) an inconsistent approach to internal affairs and discipline; and (6) the absence of training in critical areas including firearm qualifications training since 2010.

Unplugged: The Project Manager's Post-Engagement Perspective

“If you are really and truly committed to changing a police agency for the better – and not just papering over differences or obscuring true challenges with a quietly conducted in-house review – then you need to start with a fair and accurate understanding of the facts on the ground. That’s what happened here. We were able to shine the light on a lot of areas – before an unfortunate event occurred – not afterwards.”

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