March 16, 2006
SPRINGFIELD (March 16)—Legislation that would ensure the professionalism of railroad special agents, and protect railroad employees from potential abuse of powers, passed the Illinois House unanimously today. The amendments to the Railroad Police Act will now be sent to Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his signature.
S.B. 2243, which passed the Illinois Senate unanimously March 1, contained language inserted by the UTU that would ensure accountability of railroad police to the public and protect railroad employees against potential abuses committed by railroad police during the course of investigations. The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville).
Szabo said that railroad police will now be required to be certified by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board and must graduate from an accredited police training academy before being commissioned as railroad special agents.
“Railroad police historically have been deputized with the same powers of arrest as civil police officers, but they have never been required to undergo the same level of training or professionalization,” Szabo said. “Now they will.
“Likewise, any railroad deploying its own police force will have to establish an internal-affairs policy to ensure objective oversight for any claims of abuse of power or other misdeeds brought by employees or the public.”
If S.B. 2243 is signed by the Governor, railroad police would be limited to investigate an employee only if the railroad believes the employee committed a crime, in response to an employee accident, in response to an imminent threat of violence in the workplace, or if there is a legitimate concern about the safety one or more employees. An employee under investigation for any non-criminal matter must be permitted to have a union representative present when interviewed by an officer.
A copy of the carrier’s internal affairs policy and employee interview policy will be required to be filed with the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board.
“Basically, we took recommendations made by the U.S DOT Inspector General regarding railroad police and codified them into law here in Illinois,” said Szabo. “We’re pleased that we could help provide this protection for our members, and ensure the professionalism and public accountability of railroad police.”