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Transit Police

Harrington recognized by chiefs association 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, April 28, 2017 9:04:00 AM

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington.Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington was celebrated as one of the state’s top law enforcement leaders by the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association this week.

Harrington received the association’s Richard W. Schaller Award, which recognizes service to the community and the profession. Harrington accepted the award at the association’s Executive Training Institute in St. Cloud.

Association leaders applauded Harrington’s efforts to encourage diversity in law enforcement, improve police-community relations and “shine an analytical light on daily practices.”

“When it comes to advancing 21st Century policing issues, few chiefs have been more dedicated or have garnered more results than Chief Harrington,” said Hugo McPhee, the association’s immediate past president and Chief of Police for the Three Rivers Park District.

Harrington became Metro Transit’s seventh Police Chief in 2012. He previously served as the Police Chief for the City of St. Paul and as a Minnesota State Senator.

Under Harrington’s leadership, the Metro Transit Police Department has expanded to more than 100 full-time officers, nearly a third of whom come from underrepresented communities and backgrounds. The department has also greatly expanded its community outreach efforts.

As an active association member, Harrington helped explore ways chiefs could improve the hiring process and help build departments that reflect the communities they service. 

Harrington has also served on the association’s legislative committee, advocating for policies that would reduce domestic and gang violence, provide better responses to human trafficking and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

“This award is really about the work that the women and men of our department have done,” Harrington said. “It is gratifying to know my colleagues saw the things we’re doing at Metro Transit as being of benefit to the profession, the Chief’s association and the statewide community we all serve.”

In 2015, Harrington was recognized as the Transit Professional of the Year​ by the Minnesota Public Transit Association.​

    > Meet the Chief

    > Officer of the year recognized for 'servant leadership'

    > Awards and Recognition

METRO Green Line Transit Police

Officer of the Year recognized for 'servant leadership' 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Friday, March 24, 2017 2:48:00 PM

Metro Transit police officer Katherine Spear on the METRO Green Line. After a decade working in financial aid, Katherine Spear started getting restless.

Looking for new opportunities, she ran a quick internet search and clicked on the first thing that came up – a chance to volunteer with the St. Paul Police Reserve Unit, which supplements the police force. 

“I sat in that Crown Victoria, started patrolling and I was hooked,” Spear said. 

So hooked, in fact, that the St. Paul native decided to pursue a full-time career in law enforcement, leaving her job, enrolling in college and serving as a Metro Transit Community Service Officer. 

This week, that leap of faith was rewarded as Spear was recognized as the Metro Transit Police Department’s Officer of the Year. She is the first woman to earn the recognition in the department’s history.

“It’s been a long journey — a lot of struggle to get where I am — so this is very humbling,” Spear said after the award was presented at the department’s annual ceremony on Wednesday.

Spear was recognized for her resolve as an officer, including one case in which she helped the department quickly identify and arrest a suspect involved in a violent attack at a light rail station. But it's the compassion she’s brought to her work that makes her truly unique. 

Patrolling the Green Line for the past 18 months, Spear has worked to build rapport with customers, occasionally singing or dancing to brighten moods, and gone out of her way to help those in need. She’s also put her motherly instincts to good use, earning a reputation for her “mom voice” and redirecting youthful exuberance in more positive directions. 

The empathy she shows toward those she encounters, she said, is partly born of her own experience. Spear is a single mother of three who faced financial strains as she worked her way through school. 

“Yeah, I take down the bad guys, but at the end of the day it’s about unconditional respect for everyone you meet,” she said. “You have to see people as human beings.”

Chief John Harrington said that attitude is what made her stand out among her peers.

“It’s not about one heroic act, but the day-to-day examples of servant leadership that she demonstrates,” he said. “She is a team player who leads both by putting herself out there and putting people in need first.”

Spear’s father, Dan Spear, was initially taken back by his daughter’s abrupt career change. But the generosity and doggedness she’s brought to her new career aren’t a surprise, he said.

“She never ceases to amaze me,” said Spear, who grew up in St. Paul’s Midway. “When she sets a goal she really sticks with it.”

Spear was among more than 50 officers celebrated at the department’s awards ceremony.

Officer James Galland was presented the Timothy Bowe Memorial Award, which goes to a part-time officer. Galland is a Sergeant at the Hastings Police Department and has spent 17 years working part-time with Metro Transit police.

Officers were also credited for taking life-saving actions, putting themselves in harms way to protect the public and working quickly to apprehend suspected criminals.

“Your work in the past year will be hard to surpass,” Harrington told officers assembled at the ceremony. “I can’t count the number of calls, emails or letters I get every day thanking our officers for doing all the right things at just the right time in so many places.”

 

2017 MTPD Awards

Safety Transit Police

Transit police welcome new K-9s 

| Wednesday, December 07, 2016 11:01:00 AM

Metro Transit police officers with their K-9 partners in Minneapolis.Officer Matt Wilkinson has always been a dog person.

So when the opportunity arose to become one of the Metro Transit Police Department’s new K-9 handlers, he took it. And since late-October he’s been side-by-side with Carlo, one of three Belgian Malinois the department recently acquired to expand its K-9 Unit.

“I’ve got a couple of dogs at home already but having him is a lot different because he’s super high-energy and has such a super high drive to work,” Wilkinson said during a recent break from training at the Hiawatha Operations & Maintenance Facility. “It’s almost a 24-hour kind of deal working with him.”

But Wilkinson and the other new K-9 officers – Jason Michaud and Erica Fossand – all agree working with their new companions has quickly proven to be one of the most rewarding moves of their careers.

And if anything, they say, it’s the dogs who are training them.

“Handling is completely more work than I ever imagined because I don’t want to get in his way, and there are a lot of things I can do to disrupt him from doing his job,” said Fossand, her K-9 Nico sitting calmly beside her.

Imported from Holland with help from the St. Paul Police Department, the K-9’s were trained to detect and point out explosive materials before being brought to Minnesota. The officers are going through an eight-week training course and will begin their patrols in early 2017.

As part of their training, the officers and K-9s spent a recent morning at the OMF looking for odors that had been planted around a train. The dogs are taught to alert the handler when they discover one of around 21 differently potentially explosive odors.

In practice, Metro Transit’s K-9s spend most of their time at rail stations and large events proactively patrolling. The K9 unit can also be called out for suspicious packages or to assist other agencies.

As the officers are quickly learning, the K-9s are eager to work, too.

“It’s not 6-4, it’s all the time,” said Michaud, whose K-9 companion, Jack, is the smallest and most energetic of the new group. “You can just see how much energy he has.”

With the latest additions, Metro Transit’s K-9 Unit has expanded to seven officers. Other members include Scott Tinucci and his K-9 Merle; Larry Wright and his K-9 Rocky; and Josh Scharber and his K-9 Rusty. The department’s older K-9s are all labs.  

The department is supervised by Sgt. Jeremy Rausch.

Carlo, Nico and Jack are expected to work for at least a decade, so the new officers have all made a long-term commitment to their new companion. But as close as they’ll likely become, there will be some obvious differences from previous partners.

“My human partners don’t sit in the back and bark at every car that goes by,” Michaud said. “So that’s different.”

    > Transit Police welcome 13 new officers

    > Police put youth on a new path through diversion program

Community Transit Police

Police put youth on a new path through Youth Diversion Program 

| Friday, December 02, 2016 11:59:00 AM

Metro Transit officer Brooke Blakey with participants in the department's Youth Diversion Program.A juvenile diversion program piloted this year has helped Metro Transit police build relationships with youth offenders.

Officers involved in the Youth Diversion Program work directly with juveniles (ages 12 to 18) facing their first charges from Metro Transit police for minor, non-violent violations such as fare evasion, fighting or disorderly conduct. 

“Our goal was meeting these kids where they are and peeling back the layers to find out why they are getting in trouble, often more than one time,” said officer Brooke Blakey, who has a background in social work and child psychology. 

“What we found was that with a little help and guidance, these kids can turn for the better and make better choices that may impact their whole lives.”

Youth are screened and given the choice to participate in the program. Follow-up actions are customized to the individual’s needs, and participants can also access services like counseling, education and family support. 

Youth who successfully complete the program have their charges dismissed. In most cases, it takes four to six months to satisfy program requirements.

Services are provided in partnership with Minneapolis-based Headway Emotional Health Services and Saint Paul Community Ambassadors, a city-funded outreach unit dedicated to improving safety on city streets.

Blakey said many of the kids’ she’s worked with struggle with truancy, jobs, learning disabilities and sometimes mental health issues.

“A lot of these kids are looking for structure and support and stability but haven’t had that in the past, or not much of it,” she said. 

In one example, Blakey said a youth could “barely exist” in the same space with their mother. The relationship issues were addressed through anger management, family therapy, money management and a parenting class for the mother. “It was like night and day, and only a few months later,” Blakey said.

Another rewarding moment was when two juveniles came downtown to visit Blakey on the night of their high school graduation ceremonies last June wearing their caps and gowns (photo).

“That was really something,” she said. “I was so impressed that they reached out to me in that way and on that night instead of being with other friends. It shows a lot of promise to me.”

Thirty-eight cases have been managed through the program since it launched in January. Several cases remain ongoing.

Gwen DeGroff-Gunter, a retired Minneapolis police officer, was hired to develop the diversion program. She said a lot of lessons have been learned since work began, including the importance of face-to-face interactions, consistency and follow-up. 

“It has been an interesting and valuable program,” DeGroff-Gunter said. “The overall highlight, I think, was discovering the potential this program has to truly make a difference in a young person’s life.”

Looking ahead, DeGroff-Gunter hopes officers can continue to engage more directly with area schools and be more directly involved with juvenile participants.

“This is a critical demographic for us in several ways, and we all want to increase safety for the riding public,” she said. “There is a huge opportunity here.”

Safety Transit Police

Transit Police welcome 13 new officers 

| Monday, November 14, 2016 11:22:00 AM

Thirteen new full-time officers joined the Metro Transit Police Department at a swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 10.

The recruits come from a variety of backgrounds, with a combined 50-plus years of law enforcement experience with the DEA, Airport Police and several other area departments. One of the new officers worked most recently as a Metro Transit bus operator.

The group also continues to build the department’s diversity, including the first Tibetan and Egyptian officers to work for Metro Transit. There are nine different languages spoken among the new officers.

“Your recruit class is a great example of the diversity of our community,” Chief John Harrington said as he addressed the group in front of family and friends at the Union Depot.

Harrington also commended the group for enduring the department's expanded, 10-week academy, including courses on fair and impartial policing, crisis intervention and poverty. 

With the new class, the department now has more than 113 full-time officers and a pool of 71 part-time officers. The new officers will be based out of both the West and East commands. 

Metro Transit police officers sworn in last week include Chad Worden, Joe Herr, Tim Wilkerson, James Reyerson, Xiong Lor, Peter Eshenaur, Amanda St. George, Ahmad Kahin, Mike Olson, Jonathan Beecham, Tenzin Dongag, Amro Abdalla and Erin Abbott. 

Metro Transit Police Department graduation fall 2016

Community Safety Transit Police

Mitchell named MTPD Officer of the Year 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, April 05, 2016 10:58:00 AM

Chief John Harrington has talked a lot about community policing since taking the helm at the Metro Transit Police Department.

Officer Leonard Mitchell has taken it to heart. And for that, he was recognized as Metro Transit’s 2015 Officer of the Year. The award was presented at the department’s annual awards ceremony on March 31.

“From the day I was sworn in, the Chief has preached about community policing and that’s what I’ve tried to live up to,” Mitchell said after the ceremony. “Treat people with respect – that’s all I do and it’s working for me.”

Mitchell joined the Metro Transit Police Department in July 2013. He’s worked along the METRO Green Line corridor, in downtown St. Paul and was one of the first officers to work a new beat on St. Paul’s East Side. Mitchell is now a patrol officer in Minneapolis.

Harrington said several community leaders had contacted him about Mitchell’s efforts, describing him as one of the most visible and respected officers they’d encountered in recent years.

“This is exactly the kind of cop we want – someone who is committed to service and protection,” Harrington said.   

A graduate of Hibbing Community College, Mitchell is a member of the National Black Police Association and served on Metro Transit’s committee on the President’s Report on 21st Century Policing (the report provides recommendations for how law enforcement can better engage with the community). He is also active in the development of a new program that will pair teenagers with Metro Transit officers.

Mitchell was one of several officers recognized at the annual awards.

    > Officer Santiago Rodriguez received the Timothy Bowe Memorial Award, presented annually to a part-time officer who displays exceptional professionalism and dedication. Rodriguez is a 14-year veteran of the St. Paul Police Department and has worked with Metro Transit since 2013.

    > Officer James Menter received a Life Saving Award for assisting paramedics responding to a male who suffered cardiac arrest on a light-rail vehicle in St. Paul.

    > Beverly Cayetano, Linda Meyer, Diana White, Dana Jabs and Elaine Warren were recognized for organizing the department’s criminal database. By standardizing the department’s record-keeping system and entering 7,000 backlogged cases, the department complies with FBI standards and can more easily track the type and frequency of crimes.

In addition to these awards, 16 certificates of appreciation 11 medals of commendation and 33 medals of merit were presented.

Officers received these honors for a variety of actions, including safely apprehending suspects with weapons, identifying and arresting a suspect involved in an operator assault and protecting a woman at risk of being trampled in downtown Minneapolis. Praise was also given to an officer who saw a child with a broken bike and purchased him a new one using his own money.

Officers who conducted the most fare checks, spent the most time on-board buses and trains and made the highest-number of arrests were also honored at the event.

“What these awards represent is not just the work of individual officers, but an entire organization that goes out every day and does really, truly outstanding work,” Harrington said.

Transit Police

Transit Police welcome new officers 

| Friday, November 06, 2015 12:00:00 PM

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington and officers at a swearing-in ceremony at the Union Depot on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015.Mukhtar Abdi spent ten years interacting with the public as a Metro Transit bus operator. He’ll continue to do so, but in a much different way.

This week, Abdi was among 13 men and women who were sworn in as the newest members of the Metro Transit Police Department in front of friends, family and fellow officers.

“I really just wanted to serve the community in a new way, to have more interactions and more engagement,” said Abdi, the latest officer of Somali descent to join the department. 

With the latest hires, the department now has 108 full-time officers. With another 100 part-time officers, the department is among the largest in the state. Transit Police patrol busy transit areas and regularly ride on buses and trains. They can respond to any call for service in Metro Transit’s seven-county service area.

In addition to growing the force, the new class builds on the department’s continuing efforts to diversify and reflect the community it serves. Around half of the new hires speak a second language; there are also three officers of Hmong descent. Six of the new officers are female.

The group also highlights the department’s efforts to build from within, with five officers previously serving as Community Service Officers. CSOs assist officers and police staff while pursuing law enforcement degrees.

“We’re creating a pathway for people right here at Metro Transit to pursue their dreams without having to go anywhere,” Police Chief John Harrington said.

To learn more about job opportunities with the Metro Transit Police Department visit metrotransit.org/police

2015 Metro Transit Police Academy swearing in

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