A transit officer is a police officer that specializes in maintaining order and balance on any transportation system. Whether they work for a freight company, railroad, bus line, subway, or other form of transportation, transit officers keep the people and property on these systems safe. These officers are responsible for responding to and investigating crimes that occur in these specific environments.
Examples of transit officers are transit officers that work for Amtrak police, or the Transit authority police of any municipality such as the transportation authority of Massachusetts Bay. Most only have limited power and can only investigate crimes and apprehend criminals that are in violation of transit rules and regulations or on transit property. Some transit officers, such as those in Utah, have full power of jurisdiction, meaning they can arrest for other crimes when necessary.
In areas where rail travel and freight are prominent, transit officers are necessary assets that keep the railroad running smoothly. They keep passengers and freight safe and make sure that illegal contraband doesn’t get through on railways to other places. They are the people that make sure passengers get from point A to point B safely and securely.
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Transit officers are responsible for keeping the public safe on subways and other railroad property. They must be able to remove people in violation of the laws of these public transportation and freight carrying systems, including people who are stealing or trespassing on the property.
Transit officers must also write reports that give details of complaints they were called to. These reports must be very in-depth and give an accurate account of what happened during the call.
Patrolling rail yards and public transportation systems to prevent mishaps is another important job of transit officers. In the case that transit officers see any suspicious activity, they may be required to ask individuals for proper credentials proving they are allowed in secured or unsecured areas. And if necessary, the officer is required to apprehend the individual.
Investigation is a large part of the transit law enforcement career. Thefts of passengers’ belongings and valuables, loss of items, damage to transportation system property or passenger property, and all other crimes committed on the rail system must be investigated thoroughly and described accurately in a transit officer’s report.
Whether a transit officer is investigating a crime, protecting the shipments that are coming in on a freight line, or responding to a complaint made by a passenger on a travel line, the priority of an officer is to maintain a high quality of order on the transportation system or freight company property. Transit officers are crucial for safe transport and transportation on these systems.
Education and experience guidelines depend on the employer, but most transit officer jobs only require a high school diploma or equivalent. Most prospective officers will go through vigorous training and testing to make sure they are physically and mentally capable of the stress of a transit officer job.
Many transit companies want applicants to be at least 21 years of age with a requirement that the candidate holds a valid driver’s license. The applicants must take and pass a written exam, pass a very thorough background check, a psychiatric evaluation and, in some cases, a lie detector test before being considered for a position as an officer.
Candidates for this job should be in good physical shape to be able to withstand the often grueling physical aspects of the job. In the case that a criminal must be apprehended on foot, an officer may have to run long distances, and they may have to restrain a suspect while waiting for backup. A candidate should not only be fit to run long distances, they must also have a good deal of strength.
Candidates must also be able to wield a certain amount of authority and be prepared to exert that authority in necessary situations. Like any other police officer, they must be able to take charge in stressful environments while still keeping their cool to do the job correctly and without unnecessary aggression.
Transit officers should have excellent person-to-person communication skills as well as excellent oral and written abilities. These skills will be necessary for explaining scenarios and writing reports. Communication is key to get all of the information from a suspect. These skills are also important when speaking with witnesses and victims of crimes who often need to feel as though they are being supported rather than interrogated. Good interpersonal skills are also necessary for the teamwork required for a job as a transit officer that works closely with other members of the force.
The workplace of a transit officer varies per day. As any police officer, transit officers can never be sure exactly what they will face during a day on the job. The day could consist of quite a bit of deskwork, or it could be a particularly busy shift that involves a lot of calls and complaints.
A transit officer will be working in a team environment with other officers who share the same ethics and responsibilities. This is a job where the team members will rarely be alone. The workplace stress levels are often low simply because there are other officers to share the workload and work on cases, which makes a career as a transit officer less overwhelming than many other occupations. Each officer is assigned specific responsibilities on cases with specific guidelines explaining how the tasks should be performed. This creates a work environment free of confusion.
The salaries of transit police officers vary depending on which city the officer is employed in. In Philadelphia, PA, transit officers bring home an average of $78,000 annually, whereas in Oregon many transit officers make an average of $59,000 per year. In Chicago, IL, the salary of transit and railroad police is approximately $51,000.