Some railroad police officers are certified law enforcement officers and may carry full police and arrest powers. The appointment, commissioning and regulation of railroad police under Section 1704 of the U.S. Crime Control Act of 1990, provides that: "A railroad police officer who is certified or commissioned as a police officer under the laws of any one state shall, in accordance with the regulations issued by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, be authorized to enforce the laws of any other state in which the rail carrier owns property."
It is important to note that Section 1704 also states that this police authority is to "the extent of the authority of a police officer certified or commissioned under the laws of that jurisdiction". While a railroad police officer may have general peace officer authority in some states such as California, they are limited to the railroad's property in other states.
The status of railroad police officers varies by state, in that they are commissioned by the Governor of the state in which they reside and/or work in and they may carry both state level arrest powers and some interstate arrest powers as allowed by 49 USC 28101. Although railroad police primarily enforce laws on or near the railroad right-of-way, our Special Agents can enforce laws pursuant to crimes committed against the railroad and make arrests off of railroad property depending on the state in which they are working.
Some of the crimes railroad police investigate include trespassing on the right-of-way of the railroad, assaults against employees or passengers, terrorism threats targeting the railroad, arson, tagging of graffiti on railroad rolling stock or buildings, signal vandalism, fraud, robbery and theft of personal belongings, baggage or freight. Other incidents railroad police investigate include derailments, train/vehicle collisions, vehicle accidents on the right of way, and hazardous materials releases.
FIRST AND FOREMOST, EVACUATE THE VEHICLE IMMEDIATELY! No material object in the vehicle is worth RISKING YOUR SAFETY FOR!
While you may think calling 911 first for a stalled vehicle on a railroad track is the best idea, NOTHING is further from the truth. Calling 911 first is the worst idea you could possibly imagine, here's why. At every railroad crossing in the United States the rail carriers are required to post a BLUE data plate containing an EMERGENCY TOLL FREE NUMBER, Milepost Location and Most Importantly a GRADE CROSSING INVENTORY NUMBER. It will be 6 numbers followed by a letter, 123 456T as an example. If you call 911, they have to look up all the information provided in the field directly to you and call on your behalf. Think about this, if a train is traveling 60MPH, it covers one mile of distance for every minute of time spent searching for the information the 911 dispatcher needs just to make the call. If this takes 6 minutes, the train has now traveled 6 miles. Add three 3 more minutes to get the required information relayed from you to the railroad. Now the train has traveled 9 miles since you've made your 911 call. Add 3 more minutes to notify the approaching train and the train likely would make it another 3 miles before getting stopped making the distance of 12 miles the train traveled total before getting stopped. What if the train was only 7 miles away? You will be watching as your vehicle is destroyed by the oncoming train. By calling the provided Toll Free Number and reporting the grade crossing information yourself, you cut the response time down to under a minute. Wouldn't you rather call the people who have direct contact with the train crew to begin with? This saves time and given this scenario as stated here, it saves YOUR VEHICLE!
Evacuate the vehicle FIRST. Call the railroad NEXT as they have the ability to contact the train and get it stopped. Then call 911. Remember if a train does approach before you are able to notify anyone, DO NOT attempt to save it. Get away from the track as quickly as possible. A vehicle can be replaced, You can't be.
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