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Knowledge of Railroad Policing


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  • Knowledge of Railroad Policing

    I am curious as to views of railroad policing from patrol officers.

    We used to deal with them quite a bit due to their trains being burglarized EVERYDAY. Now, they seem to have a handle on it.

    But, some of the more seasoned guys I worked with seemed to think Railroad Police were golden children. I don't know if it was because of their duties or the money. What do you think?

  • #2
    Originally posted by 2Lucky
    But, some of the more seasoned guys I worked with seemed to think Railroad Police were golden children. I don't know if it was because of their duties or the money.
    Hmm; good question. I dunno how salaries compare, but I can think of differences in the duties. There are lots of similarities, though, between "government entity" and railroad policing.

    Chance of railroad cop having to mediate a domestic dispute: slim.
    Chance of having to sit in the dark, in the weeds, watching for boxcar burglars: higher. (
    Chance of encountering trespassers who are intoxicated/mentally disturbed/both: higher still.

    In think most, if not all, states now require RR police to have the same training and qualification as any other officer. Then there's a whole new set of terms to learn, plus the RR's operating rules, safety rules, etc. There may be some things in the state law that were never mentioned in the academy, so the railroad cop will have to learn all of that.
    For example, breaking a seal on a freight car, releasing brakes on a car, locomotive, or work equipment, or "defiling or defacing" same is a crime under Maine's Title 17. The Maine Criminal Code is Title 17-A. Officers are issued a copy of Title 17-A and related statutes (juvenile law, etc.), but Title 17 gets a mention in one chapter of the Law Enforcement Officer's Manual, and only the chapters are listed, not the various sections.
    The section about tampering with a railroad car is something most officers probably wouldn't deal with during an entire career, but it's a good "stick" to use on taggers and other miscreants. (Possible fine of not more than $500, or imprisonment for not more than 2 years, plus civil liability for the damage done.)

    Other than that the patrol area might be miles long but only 100 feet wide in a lot of places, I think it's the same in a lot of ways. A day on either job could be "90% boredom and 10% panic."

    One more thing: when some bean-counter decides that laying off cops would be a good move fiscally, railroad cops don't have city councilors or citizen groups protesting on their behalf. It just happens.
    Last edited by RR_Security; 04-27-2007, 09:57 AM.
    Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?"


    • #3
      I agree with you. From talking with some of the rr guys, they don't have to worry about the city councilor and can pretty much dictate how their day will go.

      That thing about intoxicated or mentally ill people, shudder, shudder, around here that is all day every day for them.


      • #4
        A sergeant I worked with went to railroad policing with Union Pacific for a while. He said that he nearly died of boredom. Most of his work involved driving through switchyards and looking at pretty close to nothing.

        When I was a city cop, the RR cops were paid about the same as us. But I went to grad school with a RR cop who worked in the South. His pay was 2-3 times what the local cops made, but Southern PDs (mostly) still don't pay as well as those in the West.
        Tim Dees, now writing as a plain old forum member, his superpowers lost to an encounter with gold kryptonite.


        • #5
          I used to work with one of the major railroad PDs alot. The officers tended to be older and very good at what they did, but the focus was somewhat narrow. Talking to them, the pay was competitive or better than most departments, but not as good as the better paid larger departments. Railroad retirement treats railroad police like any other employee, so most police departments offer competitive or better retirement.

          The real up side was the responsibility that the officers had. The Charlotte office was a 3 or 4 man post, and there were several 1 or 2 man posts in the rest of the Carolinas. The work appeared to be fairly mundane, but they did work many investigations. After 9/11 the work really focused on security of the property and less on investigations. Pre 9/11 it was a coat and tie job, now they mostly wear uniforms.

          Not a bad gig by any stretch, but it is also not the best, from what I have seen. I talked to the local supervisor years ago about working for them, and he steered me away from the railroad. In hindsight, I am better off where I was and still am.


          • #6
            Originally posted by RR_Security

            In think most, if not all, states now require RR police to have the same training and qualification as any other officer.
            I was actually looking up on UP and BN the other day and one of the 2 had a listing for the San Bernidino area and they wanted CA POST certification. Another in Utah I believe wanted UT POST... so from what i can speculate you have to be certified in the state you'll be working.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mystikal
              I was actually looking up on UP and BN the other day and one of the 2 had a listing for the San Bernidino area and they wanted CA POST certification. Another in Utah I believe wanted UT POST... so from what i can speculate you have to be certified in the state you'll be working.
              Yeah, the companies want someone with certification for the state where they'll work. (And usually some experience.) What I was getting at was that the states are requiring it, too. They won't just let a RR hand someone a badge and gun and send them out on the job.
              Maine's got a whole chapter on it, under Title 23. "Qualified person" is defined in section 6072.

              There's federal law (49 CFR §207.3) about commissioning.
              "(b) The designated railroad police officer shall be commissioned by the railroad police officer's state of legal residence or the railroad police officer's state of primary employment."
              Then it gets into powers in other states where the RR owns property, when and where enforcement action can be taken, etc.

              Excerpts from something a friend forwarded to me a couple of months ago:
              WALL STREET JOURNAL February 22, 2007
              Cold Case: Keeping Snowmobilers off Straight and Narrow
              Railway Cops Hunt Riders Who Use Tracks as Trails; 'Speed Traps' in Snowdrifts
              By DANIEL MACHALABA

              HOLLAND, N.Y. - Railroad policeman Matthew Galas eased his cruiser behind a snowbank near a Norfolk Southern Corp. train line. He'd seen what he was looking for: fresh snowmobile tracks on the right of way. Lawbreakers had been there that morning.

              He settled in to await his prey. An hour later, a snowmobile slid to a stop at the edge of the woods. Its driver nosed toward the train track, as if about to follow alongside it through railroad property. Then he spotted Mr. Galas, and disappeared back into the snowy forest.

              Matthew Galas rides a Norfolk Southern snowmobile near the company's locomotives. The snowmobile can go up to 100 miles an hour, but the company has a "no high-speed chase" rule for its police vehicles.

              "I thought we had a taker," said Mr. Galas. After waiting a half-hour more, he figured the word of his presence was out. Clad in a black snowsuit emblazoned "POLICE," he jumped on the railroad force's own snowmobile outfitted with red flashing lights and inspected the illegal trail, which at one point came within inches of the railroad track.

              Mr. Galas is one of more than a thousand police officers employed by U.S. railroads. A couple hundred of them spend at least part of their winters on a unique mission: chasing snowmobilers illegally on the train tracks.

              Mr. Galas once ticketed a man whose snowmobile was demolished after it had gotten caught in a snow-covered track. The driver dismounted shortly before a freight train smashed into his snowmobile -- as well as a second snowmobile that was trying to tow his off the track. Another time, Mr. Galas says he was dragged perhaps 100 feet across the snow at 2 a.m. by a snowmobiler he stopped for trespassing and suspected of being under the influence. When the snowmobiler decided to run for it, his vehicle's handlebars caught on Mr. Galas's jacket and gun belt.

              "Some of them are out as long as the bars are open," notes the 33-year-old, who has worked for eight years for Norfolk Southern. "And they are open until 4 a.m. in Erie County."

              After a slow start this year, winter has hit the Northeast with a vengeance. Where Mr. Galas works, in the Buffalo suburbs, that has meant frigid temperatures, heavy snowfall and an escalation of the annual fight between railroad police and the area's legions of snowmobile fanatics. So far this month, Mr. Galas has issued warnings to eight snowmobilers on the right of way in Holland, just one of many freight lines crisscrossing the area. Police have given out tickets that can carry fines of $100.

              Some aficionados resent the railroad getting aggressive about patrolling the right of way along its tracks, which can be as wide as 100 feet and tends to have some of the flattest, smoothest paths among the hilly and treacherous woods.

              The railroad wants the snowmobilers away from its tracks as much as possible. Snowmobilers in northern New York and New England have crashed into railroad equipment and trains. Train companies fear snowmobiles can strike dangerous objects buried under snow on railroad property, such as long sections of rail or stacks of railroad ties. The companies also fear expensive jury awards if accident victims or their families sue.

              In late January, a 24-year-old snowmobiler died when he lost control and ran into a CSX Corp. signal shed near Erie, Pa. Several years ago, an Amtrak train killed a snowmobile operator who was riding on the narrow cake of snow between the rails near Albany.

              Commercial railroads have had their own police forces going back to the Civil War. Famous agents included Bat Masterson, a Wyatt Earp crony, and Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton detective agency that chased train robbers in the Old West. Railroad cops are granted full enforcement powers by state governments, and also deal with cargo theft, vandalism and, lately, terrorism concerns. Municipal and state police also make arrests for violating railroad territory, but railroad companies say that's not enough.
              Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?"


              • #8
                RR Policing

                I work in Penn Station NY and with 505,000 people coming through per day, we have plenty to do. Of course after 9/11 our focus is on terrorism, but sice we don't screen passengers like the airports do, we have lots of guns and drugs being transported across the nation on Amtrak. One of the best features of railroad policing to me is tyou can be as active or slow as you desire. No one pushes you to go crazy, but there is always plenty to do if thats your thing. Amtrak Police Officers have both state and federal arrest powers, so the job is unique and interesting. I just hope we don't have America's version of Madrid or London.

                Be safe


                • #9
                  There was a great TV show on a few months back about the RR busting a bunch of guys operating out of Jersey City, NJ.

                  They would hop on a freight across the New York border at a turn where the speed was way down and then do a "cat walk" along the side of the cars and break in. The load would be tossed off at designated spots to guys in white vans that were made to look like the Con Rail service vehicles.

                  They made millions and millions before they were caught! High end stuff like DKNY, Gucci and easy to unload clothing items.


                  • #10
                    We work pretty close with RR PD. Down here on the border there we deal with illegals and train bandits. For the most part the RR officers are pretty squared away. As with any other Dept., including my own, there are a couple of knuckleheads but for the most part I enjoy working with them.
                    The only thing we have to fear is change itself.


                    • #11
                      my late step dad, retired from ' chessie system' now csx, originally
                      hired in 1965 by the B & O r.r. , 9 yrs prior service with baltimore p.d,
                      he was 43 and i was 19 when he married my late mom, and subsequently
                      i went to work for ' chicago and western indiana r.r. ( they owned dear born station ) at one time. he was always busy chasing thieves ,
                      in illinois and indiana, the chicago inner city 79th and western trailer yard,
                      and riverdale ' barr yard'. my work locations could vary from china town,
                      to famous ' state line tower ' , he or his agent's on patrol if they happen to be in the area on the midnight shift would find out where i was workin,
                      and bring some coffee, hot food. it was quite a good thing to have a big burly step dad who was wearing butter bar' important thing is , their is no provision for early retirement, so yr gonna be playing cops and robbers at least til age 60 = where i collect my bag of peanuts at age 48 with 25 yrs......oct 2008 =
                      Last edited by ftlaudcop; 04-29-2007, 10:12 AM. Reason: typo spelling
                      " if you talk in your sleep, don't mention my name....
                      " if you walk in your sleep, forget where you came....


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