Guest speaker John Harrington on June 4, 2018 by Pamela O’Meara
Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington was a dynamic guest speaker at the June 4 Roseville Rotary Club meeting.
He discussed the successes and challenges of his job, saying his day begins at 5 a.m. at Union Depot in St. Paul where he deals with homeless people -- homeless for reasons such as PTSD and drug use and more -- plus some social predators. He said there are around 500 homeless people around the system, so he had about 40 porta potties.set up and plain clothes details.
 From Union Depot, his route goes on to Cedar-Riverside, the University of Minnesota and Target Field where he encounters more homeless people. He said his department ends up serving as a social service agency – and is one of the busiest departments in the state with about 75,000 calls per year.
His route has so many jurisdictions that it needed its own police department. That department was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1994 to provide a safe environment for Metro Transit customers and employees.
Harrington said  9-11 was a wake-up call for police departments. Mass transit is the No. 1 target for terrorists, so there are 7,000 cameras on the transit system.
Harrington, who spent 40 years in law enforcement, has greatly diversified his department. By the end of this year he said nearly half of all employees will be women or people of color. He is also a community policing advocate who does community outreach to build relationships through programs like Coffee with Cops and Badges and Baseball.
Harrington has been recognized by the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association and the Minnesota Public Transit Association as its Transit Professional of the Year for his efforts to make the MTPD’s police force reflective of the community it serves.
Under his leadership since 2012, the Metro Transit Police Department has been transformed into one of the most responsive and diverse police agencies in the state, and it has become a leader in addressing issues of homelessness and youth violence in the Twin Cities.
Harrington began his law enforcement career in 1977 with the St. Paul Police Department, and in 2004, he became the chief until he was elected to the Minnesota State Senate. He resigned that position  in 2012 to become chief of the Metro Transit Police Department.
In 2011, he helped launch Ujamaa Place, a nonprofit agency that works with African-American men in St. Paul to help them transition out of prison or gangs and become productive community members.
Harrington received his bachelor of arts degree in religion from Dartmouth College with a minor in Chinese language and earned a master's degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the National Executive Institute and the Police Executive Research Forum. He is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in leadership at St. Mary's University of Minnesota.