Railroad cops are law enforcement officers tasked with ensuring the safety and security of rail yards, trains, and other related locations. These law enforcement officers are usually hired the railroad, but they have the same authority as government police officers, and they frequently work with government law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes. Railroad police, like other members of the law enforcement community, are primarily concerned with public safety.
Railroad policing has a nearly as long history as railroads themselves. Railroad companies have needed security forces since the beginning of the industry to deal with issues like theft, trespassing, and vandalism. Today, railroad policing is largely unchanged, with a few exceptions to address issues such as terrorism and sabotage.
To work for the railroad police, applicants must complete the same training as other peace officers, which includes attending a law enforcement academy and passing physical tests, background checks, and exams to confirm knowledge and competency. While railroad police are most often employed railroads, they can also work for transit agencies or the government, depending on how policing is organized in the country or region where they work.
Violations of the law on trains, in train yards, and at train stations are of concern to railroad police. Trespassing is a major source of concern, as it jeopardizes the railroad’s security and can be extremely dangerous for trespassers. Traffic control around railroad property, train hoppers attempting to hitch a free ride on the train, citations for failing to stop at railroad crossings when directed, and arresting vandals who damage railroad property are all issues that railroad police deal with. They can also apprehend criminals who have warrants out for their arrest, as well as cooperate with law enforcement investigations.
Some railroad police accompany the train and are part of the crew that ensures the comfort and safety of the passengers. Railroad police can also be stationed in train stations and train yards to assist the public, combat criminal activity, and create a visible security force. While many railroad police officers are fascinated trains and their history, it is not necessary to be a train enthusiast to become a railroad police officer, and some officers never even ride the train.