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Railroad Police Careers

With almost 58,000 miles of railroad track in the United States, the potential for criminal or terrorist activity on this vital national transportation system is enormous.  In order to safeguard railroads, each state and the federal government, in collaboration with state governments, have created railroad police units that enforce laws on and around rail facilities. The officers in the railroad police receive their salaries from private companies but derive their authority to arrest and enforce laws from state mandates.

While rail transportation receives little notice from most of the public, it is an essential means of conveying passengers and goods across large distances in a short amount of time.  The rail system is a highly complex and tightly controlled network that could suffer catastrophic damage through even minor disruptions.

Railroad Police Job Description

Railroad police are required to fulfill many responsibilities as part of the job, including:

  • Monitor and secure the facilities associated with railroads including stations, warehouses and fuel depots
  • Ensure that only authorized personnel are on trains
  • Investigate thefts, property destruction or vandalism
  • Ensure the security of tracks
  • Patrol the cars and detect suspicious behavior or packages
  • Investigate any disruptions to rail service

How to Become a Railroad Police Officer

The path to becoming a railroad police officer is dependent upon the state.  Some states require that railroad police officers obtain commissions as other local and state officers do, while other states may only require certifications similar to a security guard.  As a result of the Crime Control Act, commissioned railroad police officers with arrest or other powers in one state may also carry those powers to any other state in which their railway employer operates.

In most states, the jurisdiction of railroad police is limited to the immediate area around railroads, stations and facilities supporting rail transport. In some states, however, railroad officers possess the broad powers and jurisdiction of local or state police.  Most railroad police are actually employed by railway companies, although they receive commissions through state agencies.

Most railway companies use similar standards as other law enforcement agencies in the hiring process.  Applicants should possess a high school diploma, although a college degree would be helpful in competing for railroad police jobs.  Candidates should also possess superior strength, dexterity and stamina to pass the physical component of the selection process. Once selected, recruits will be enrolled in police training programs similar to those of other law enforcement agencies.

The majority of railroad police serve as patrol officers, but many employers have specialized units to respond to specific types of incidents.  Major rail companies have developed special operations teams that conduct operations involving explosives detection and removal, hazardous materials, and counter-terrorism.  These specialized units receive additional instruction through state or federal authorities like the FBI.

Railroad Police Salary

The average salary for Railroad Police in 2010 was $58,560 nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The top ten percent earned salaries of $86,630 or higher.  Among the highest paying industries were

  • State government – $70,570
  • Rail transportation – $60,980
  • Local government – $56,760

The Bureau of Labor Statistics furnished this data showing railroad and transit police salaries for select surveyed states.

State Employment Annual Mean Wage Annual Median Wage Annual 75th Percentile Wage Annual 90th Percentile Wage
California34058750563707624087350
Florida9052530522306845075570
Illinois19057010607707005075620
Maryland7042590454304630046320
Missouri13049800452804852073650
New Jersey400881608752098750112590
New York16065420638707537090680
OklahomaEstimate not released50180498706008070150
Oregon7046490432506317072180
Pennsylvania16065180660807421085330
Tennessee9048770489905701067360
Texas59051640500905936069690
Utah6046480483905587060600
Virginia10056930569506873077850

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