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A Brief History of the Amtrak Police Department

Black & white photo - APD graduating classAmtrak Police Department (APD) Officers have the same police authority as a local or state law enforcement officer within their jurisdiction.  APD Officers investigate various types of crimes that occur within and around stations, trains and right-of-ways. 

APD Officers are required to be commissioned in either the state of legal residence or state of primary employment and are authorized by Federal Statute to enforce laws and conduct investigations nationwide, related to crimes occurring on Amtrak property.

Amtrak’s enabling legislation under the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, now found at 49 U.S.C. 24101, established the authority for Amtrak to have its own police force. 

The Amtrak rail police law, now found at 49 U.S.C. 24305 (e), states as follows:

(e) Amtrak may directly employ or contract with rail police to provide security for rail passengers and property of Amtrak. Rail police directly employed by or contracted by Amtrak who have complied with a State law establishing requirements applicable to rail police or individuals employed in a similar position may be directly employed or contracted without regard to the law of another State containing those requirements.

Amtrak Security & Loss Prevention

Amtrak security patchThe APD found its roots in the Loss Prevention and Security group that grew as part of Amtrak from 1971 to 1976. That group mainly handled security surveys and security of the onboard service stock. These uniformed security guards (not commissioned) worked at several locations, such as Chicago and Los Angeles to name a few, but Amtrak did not have responsibility for policing the stations.

Because of the Regional Railroad Reorganization Act, which went into effect on April 1, 1976, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (CONRAIL) was formed to handle freight and Amtrak was approved to operate on the Northeast Corridor. On April 2, 1976, Amtrak became two entities:

1. Corporate, which operated out of Washington, DC, and handled everything south and west.

2. The Northeast Corridor (NEC), which handled the Northeast Corridor Project.

Amtrak Police and Security

The Amtrak Police and Security Department (POSE) was created to handle the NEC, while the Loss Prevention and Security Group continued to handle the remainder of the country. The POSE placed uniformed, commissioned police officers at various stations and facilities along the NEC.  In 1976, the Amtrak Police and Security Department (POSE) NEC Director of Police William Reynolds commanded a force of 340 officers on the corridor. The first Corporate Director of Police and Security was Jack Harris.

On September 1, 1978, reorganization occurred within Amtrak, which merged the NEC and Corporate entities as one and merged the POSE with the Loss Prevention and Security Group under Director William Reynolds. 

In April 1979, APD Officers were accepted as full member participants in the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) at Glynco, Georgia.

Amtrak Police Department – 1980’s

APD Pistol Team

Radio DeskIn 1981, the Office of Investigations, a specialized group, split away from POSE and reported directly to the Law Department, but re-merged with POSE in 1984 and the APD was formed under the direction of Chief of Police Raymond Ingalls.

In the spring of 1986, the APD reorganized into three divisions that included Patrol, Criminal Investigations, and Special Services to model the Department after municipal police departments.

APD Organization-Late 1980’s:  Chief of Police Thomas Sardino and Deputy Chiefs Ernest Frasier, Samuel Nickerson and Richard Haumann.

Amtrak Police Department – 1990’s

1990's APD K-9 PatrolIn the early 1990’s APD realigns to a new organizational structure:

  • Field Operations – Patrol and Criminal Investigations
  • Headquarters Operations – Support Staff and Special Investigations
  • Office of the Chief of Police – Internal Affairs and Community Relations

In 1992, APD was the first railroad police department and agency with national jurisdiction responsibilities to seek and achieve CALEA accreditation.

APD created the National Communications Center (NCC) in 1995, moving all dispatching/call taking to Philadelphia.  APD launched Customer Oriented Policing (COP) the same year. 

In 1996, APD consisted of 325 sworn and 17 civilian employees stationed in two regions. The Eastern Region included Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Georgia and Florida. The Western Region included Indiana, Illinois, Washington, California, Texas, and New Mexico. Police headquarters was located at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. Regions were commanded by Inspectors and Field Offices were commanded by Captains/Managers with the assistance of Lieutenants and Sergeants.

Amtrak Police Department – 2000's

screeningSeptember 11, 2001, had a significant impact on the APD:

  • Moved from traditional law enforcement to increased counter-terrorism focus.
  • Added security function to manage Homeland Security grant funding.
  • Expanded department by adding Special Operations Unit (Mobile Tactical). 
  • APD transformed K-9 unit to explosive detection and expands to over 50 teams.
  • Expanded intelligence gathering capabilities.
  • Implemented random passenger screening.

Amtrak Police Department - 2011 to 2012

Amtrak Police Department was structured as follows:

  • Patrol Division 
  • Special Operations and Corporate Security 
  • Office of the Chief of Police 
  • 434 sworn officers assigned to 36 reporting locations 
  • APD is accredited by CALEA after returning to the process.
  • Corporate Security shifts to newly formed Emergency management and Corporate Security Department (EMCS).

Amtrak Police Department – 2014

APD structure defined:

  • Office of the Chief
  • Patrol Division 
  • Special Operations 
  • Authorized headcount of over 500 personnel at more than 30 locations in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

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