Technical Snag Leaves St. Louis Commuter Rail Cops Toothless

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Public safety officers who patrol MetroLink commuter trains in St. Louis stopped ticketing riders for failing to pay the fare — or for any other violation — more than a year ago, after being warned by local police, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The conflict raises questions about the validity of thousands of tickets issued over the commuter train service’s 24-year history. St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said his office stopped filing charges on citations issued by MetroLink’s public safety officers because of doubts about their legitimacy. Leaders of Bi-State Development, the agency that oversees MetroLink, say they believe the inability to issue tickets is a factor behind a recent wave of crime — including several shootings — at MetroLink stations and on trains.

Vincent Schoemehl, chairman of Bi-State Development board of commissioners, said word has gotten around among criminals that the officers can’t write tickets or make arrests. Bi-State said its officers were stripped of the ability to cite fare violators because of a problem with the ticket form MetroLink employees used. The issue was brought to the agency’s attention in an October 2015 letter from the police chiefs of St. Louis and St. Louis County, who protested that MetroLink tickets included a nine-digit federal identification that belonged to the St. Louis County Police Department. The county wanted the commuter rail to apply for its own federal ID.

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