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Metro Transit swears in new police chief amid a rise in crime, drug use on trains and buses

Chief Ernest Morales III is the ninth police chief in the department’s 30-year history.

ST PAUL, Minn — According to a new report, the Metro Transit is reporting an increase in crime on buses and trains. The reports show a 182% increase in narcotics, 145% in weapons and 15 suspected overdoses this month alone.

It’s also one reason that the organization is also adding security officers to several transit stations.

And on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Council hosted a swearing-in ceremony for Metro Transit’s latest police chief Ernest Morales III. He’s the ninth police chief in the department’s 30-year history.

Before coming to Metro Transit, Morales served as the first Deputy Police Commissioner in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years at the New York City Police Department, serving as Deputy Inspector and Commanding Officer. In that role, he led 180 police officers who patrolled 42 subway stations. 

“My number one priority is to instill safety, the feeling of safety,” said Chief Morales. “We’re dealing with a perception that we lost control of metro transit, not true.”

Chief Morales is taking over at a time when the organization is reporting a rise in violent crime and drug use on buses and trains, even implementing a safety and security action plan with 40 points to improve public safety. It includes more real-time cameras, de-escalation training and hiring more police officers.

“As chief, it’s my duty to make sure each of these individuals feels supported and has what they need to do their best work,” said Morales.

A week ago, Metro Transit also agreed to start contract negotiations with a security company that would start this spring at four more stations, saying a pilot program at two stations has already resulted in a decrease in service calls.

“This is where we can reimagine policing and this is where we have to build the trust back,” said Morales. “I know I can turn things around.”

The department is also down nearly 60 officers and Chief Morales says recruitment, training and accountability are key in restoring its staff.

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