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Posts in Category: Safety

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.

Bus Know Your Operator Safety

Celebrating four decades of service, safety 

| Wednesday, July 08, 2015 1:11:00 PM

When Jerry Olson was sent out to drive a bus alone for the first time, the then 21-year-old operator couldn’t help but feel a little anxious. After all, he’d had just four weeks of training and had gotten into enough trouble with his own vehicles that he’d earned the nickname “Crash.”

“The passengers must have been really nervous, because my leg was shaking the whole time,” Olson said of his maiden voyage on Route 19, taken back in 1972.

Olson quickly settled in, though, and spent the next four decades building a legacy as a model Metro Transit bus operator. Olson, #1504, is retiring this week after nearly 43 years of service.

The length of service is itself unique – at retirement, Olson had become the longest-tenured current operator at Metro Transit – but his record is made all the more impressive by the fact that his career also includes more than 41 consecutive years of safe driving.

“What he has achieved, less than 1 percent of operators are probably going to be able to do that,” said Doug Looyen, a Safety Specialist at South Garage, where Olson has worked since 1981.

Olson said it took a few years to get fully comfortable behind the wheel, but that a commitment to the Safety Keys helped him anticipate and react to whatever came his way. He spent 18 years as a trainer and mentored operators throughout his career, helping others successfully adopt the same approach.

In 2014, Olson was recognized for his contributions and named the Minnesota Bus Operator of the Year by the Minnesota Public Transit Association. Olson also received multiple Metro Transit awards during his career.

Taking his final trip Wednesday morning, Olson navigated through residential areas of Richfield and south Minneapolis, up Interstate 35W and through downtown Minneapolis with the same cool confidence that carried him throughout the years.

Along for the ride were several colleagues and family members, including fellow operator and wife Lynnette. General Manager Brian Lamb also rode along, sharing a few words and doughnuts to mark the occasion.

As an on-call operator, Olson carried millions of customers on multiple express and local routes throughout the metro. Passengers riding with him on Route 558 on Wednesday morning were impressed to learn about his safe driving record and humbled by his decades of service.

“This is one of those underappreciated jobs but, 42 years of service and doing what you love, that’s just beautiful,” said Tamara Rogers “He’s responsible for a lot of lives and to know he’s been accident-free for so long, that’s great.”

Pulling the empty bus into the garage for the final time, Olson said his final trip was bittersweet and a bit overwhelming. Now 63, he looks forward to spending more time with family and friends. But he will also miss his co-workers and time behind the wheel.

“I’ve spent more than two-thirds of my life here, so it wasn’t an easy decision to retire,” Olson said. “But there comes a time when you just have to say goodbye.”

    > MPR: Bus driver retires after 41 accident-free years

    > WCCO: Driver retires after years of safe driving

    > Star Tribune: Long-tenured Metro Transit operator retires

    > Saluting Jerry Olson, Minnesota’s Operator of the Year

    > Fond memories on a final ride

    > Using ‘Keys’ to put safety first

Learn more about Metro Transit staff who have retired with more than 30 years of service here

Safety Transit Police

Academy tests, transforms aspiring Transit Police 

| Tuesday, May 26, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Metro Transit Police officers doing classroom work during the 2015 Spring Academy.When Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington addressed a group of new officers at the department’s latest swearing-in ceremony, he told them a "transformation" had taken place.

"When you came to my office as job seekers you seemed a little nervous, a little less sure," he said. "But you have stood tall and you have passed every test that we have thrown at you."

As the department’s newest full-time officers can attest, there were plenty of trials, too.

Before receiving their badges in front of family, friends and colleagues, the officers had successfully completed several weeks of training as part of the department’s customized academy program.  

The department’s academy comes in addition to higher education and state training that all aspiring officers must complete to become a licensed peace officer in Minnesota. The goal is to ground officers in the department’s expectations and help prepare them for the unique challenges they will face working in transit.

Transit Police work in communities around the metro region, patrolling on board buses and trains, in squad cars, on foot and on bike. Transit Police are available to respond to any and all calls in the department's service area.  

To prepare them for their full-time roles, the department's academy includes courses on firearms, combatives and emergency vehicle operations. Officers also spend time learning about community outreach and cultural awareness. 

"We try to give everybody a skill set and ground them in what we believe is right," said Lt. Jason Lindner, who oversees the department’s academy program. "We provide them a good solid base and give them different tools they can build on from there."

Among the dozen officers who completed the department’s spring academy was Michael Affeldt. Though he had already spent more than a year as a Community Service Officer, Affeldt said he felt much more prepared to begin his full-time role after going through the academy.

"I’m feeling very confident in my abilities," he said. "I think that’s one of the best things about the academy – it not only builds your skills it builds your confidence."

The department’s next academy is tentatively scheduled to begin in mid-September. To learn more opportunities at the Metro Transit Police Department visit metrotransit.org/police.

    > Star Tribune: Metro Transit police welcome new, diverse class

Bus Community Safety Shelters

On West Broadway, shelters get a steward 

| Friday, May 15, 2015 8:38:00 AM

There are a few more watchful eyes making sure transit shelters along West Broadway Avenue are staying clean and safe.

The West Broadway Improvement District has adopted more than a half-dozen shelters along the North Minneapolis corridor, which stretches about two miles from the Mississippi River to Sheridan Avenue.

Clean-up crews hired to help maintain the special service district pick up litter at and between the shelters three times a week, supplementing maintenance performed by Metro Transit’s Public Facilities staff. If there are issues like broken glass or graffiti, crew members are encouraged to inform Metro Transit.

Crew members come from Better Futures Enterprises, which provides employment opportunities for adults who have faced challenges in their lives.

To recognize the Improvement District’s commitment, the group’s name and logo is featured on the adopted shelters.  

Board member Tara Watson, who owns two West Broadway businesses, said the adoptions are part of a broader mission to make the corridor a vibrant destination.

“In order to make change you’ve got to have your hands in certain things, and this is one of those things,” she said. 

After receiving approval from the city last year, the West Broadway Improvement District began providing services in January. In addition to cleaning the right-of-way, the district will support a branding effort through banners, holiday lighting and decorations. The district’s initiatives are supported through a special assessment on property owners. (Property owners voted overwhelmingly in favor of the assessments.)

More than 60 shelters have now been adopted through Metro Transit’s Adopt-A-Shelter program. The adoption of several sites is unique.

Businesses, individuals or groups that adopt shelters alert Metro Transit to special maintenance needs, report vandalism or other repair needs. Some adopters go beyond this commitment by performing light maintenance like litter removal.

Bill Hultberg, who manages the Adopt-A-Shelter program for Metro Transit, said assistance from adopters is critical to maintaining Metro Transit’s network of more than 800 shelters.

“Having those extra eyes and ears available to tell us where we’re needed is extremely helpful,” he said. “With the help of our adopters, we can quickly identify and address issues and ensure our shelters are safe, secure and clean.”

Bobby Hardimon is one of several crew members who works for Better Futures Enterprises. A 30-year resident of North Minneapolis, he said the clean-up efforts have already made a noticeable impact.

When he started going out a few months ago, it wasn’t unusual for him to come away with several bags of trash. The load gets lighter every week, Hardimon said.

“People are starting to get more conscious about it,” he said during a recent trip up the corridor.”I’m even starting to see people do it on their own.”

The shelter adoptions come amid the West Broadway Transit Study, which will identify future improvements on the corridor. Residents can learn more about the study at an open house at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 21, at the North Community YMCA.

Photo: Bobby Hardimon, of Better Futures Enterprises, picks up litter near a shelter at Broadway and Sheridan avenues. Hardimon is one of several crew members who work on behalf of the West Broadway Improvement District to help keep the corridor clean.

Bus Bus Rapid Transit Community Safety Transit Police

Transit Police going beyond the bus in North Minneapolis 

| Tuesday, February 10, 2015 9:22:00 AM

Metro Transit police officers David Hutchinson and Sidney Jones talk with Dean Rose, who owns Broadway Liqour Store at the corner of Broadway and Penn avenues.Metro Transit patrol officer Sidney Jones didn’t grow up in North Minneapolis. But when he moved here from Kansas City a decade ago he landed squarely in the middle of the community, making his home on Russell Avenue North. 

After experiencing the neighborhood first-hand, Jones jumped at the chance to become a part of Transit Police’s new Northside Community Policing Team.

“I grew up in the inner-city, so I wanted to be able to come back and interact with my community and to be a positive person for some of the youth,” Jones said during a recent afternoon patrol.  “I wanted to be somebody they could look up to and to do the job fairly and respectfully.”

Jones has done that and more since he and fellow patrol officer David Hutchinson began working as the department’s first members of the Northside Community Policing Team last fall. The team is responsible for patrolling a swath of North Minneapolis that runs roughly from Penn to Lyndale avenues and from Olson Memorial Highway to Dowling Avenue North.

While the officers respond to calls, ride on board buses and keep an eye on major boarding areas, one of their biggest areas of focus has been simply interacting with members of the community. Since the Northside Community Policing Team was formed, Jones and Hutchinson have spent time playing dominoes with kids at Juxtaposition, attending community meetings and getting to know business owners.

Hutchinson said the interactions have already started to change the perception of Transit Police.

“People used to think we just rode buses and checked tickets on the train,” the eight-year Transit Police officer said. “It was a surprise when we came into businesses, introduced ourselves and tried to gain a relationship with them.”

Among the business owners Jones and Hutchinson have come to know is Sam Tannos, who owns a convenience store at the corner of Penn and 26th avenues. Tannos has been at the location for six years and said having a strong police presence is critical to his business.

“We love their presence here,” Tannos said during a visit to the store. “It’s a very good idea to have them stop by and see what’s going on.”

Down the street, Dean Rose is also enthusiastic about having Transit Police become a fixture in the community.

Rose’s Broadway Liqour Store was destroyed by the 2011 tornado, forcing the store into a temporary space at the corner of Broadway and Penn avenues. A third-generation North Minneapolis business owner, Rose will break ground next year on a new mixed-use project across the street.

The plan is to incorporate a new station for the C Line Bus Rapid Transit project into the development, so Rose hopes Transit Police will continue working with him on security issues. Many people in the neighborhood use transit, Rose said, and it’s important for the businesses that will be in the building that people feel comfortable riding or standing at a bus stop.

“I think it’s important for the community to see there’s law enforcement out there,” he said. “Having these guys on the street in a visible fashion will really assist us in keeping the peace.”

Establishing such trusting relationships is the entire idea behind the beat policing model. Transit Police have established beats along the Central Corridor and in each downtowns for the same reason.

Jones said he hopes he and Hutchinson are doing now will lay a foundation for future collaboration between Metro Transit and Minneapolis police, business owners, transit customers, bus operators and others in North Minneapolis.

“The more you’re in the area, the more hopefully the community will be comfortable with those officers and coming forward to talk to them,” he said. “I really think we’re breaking ground with this new beat.”

    > Fox 9: Metro Transit Northside Beat fosters community connections

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