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Metra's board yesterday approved two agreements with Cook County, Ill., that will allow the railroad's police department to put more officers in the field.Under the first agreement, tickets issued by Metra police in Cook County will be adjudicated by the Cook County Department of Administrative Hearings instead of the Circuit Court of Cook County. When cases are adjudicated in the circuit court, officers must go through a "sometimes cumbersome" booking process and be present for court dates, often repeatedly for the same case, Metra officials said in a press release.By using the Department of Administrative Hearings' adjudication services, Metra police officers will no longer need to be present in most cases, which will reduce overtime costs and enable officers to spend more time in the field and on patrol. Also under the agreement, the Chicago-area commuter railroad and Cook County will share revenue collected from Metra police-issued citations.Under the second agreement, Metra will pay the Cook County Sheriff to provide 24-hour dispatching service to Metra for 911 calls. The agreement is for five years with a two-year renewal option.Metra police officers currently staff and operate an in-house dispatch center to monitor police activity on the railroad's property and communicate with local municipalities or other officers. The new agreement will allow the nine Metra officers assigned to the dispatch center to return to police duties.The railroad employs 100 police officers who oversee security of Metra's 11 lines and 241 stations. The combined impact of the two new agreements are expected to increase the railroad's police presence by about 10 percent, Metra officials said.
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