Senior Alanna Tessarolo, a double major in Criminal Justice and Psychology, interned with the Amtrak Police Department at Union Station in Chicago. Over 10 weeks she was able to work on investigations and with detectives, patrol officers, the K-9 unit and DEA units, and participate in trainings.
“The internship opened my eyes to the reality behind police work, as well as hands-on experience in many different situations,” Tessarolo said. “While observing how the policemen maintain safety in and around the station, I noticed self-growth with my alertness to my surroundings, my work ethic, and my passion for my future career.”
As Alanna worked her 40-hour weeks, she spoke with a wide variety of people, including officers from suburban departments, Chicago Police Department officers, male and female officers, recent recruits and officers close to retirement. She wanted to get a good sense of what it would be like to work in the industry.
“Being able to shadow these officers and sergeants allowed me to truly experience what this job is like, and it made me even more excited to start my career with Indiana University Police Department,” she said.
Two days after Alanna’s internship ended this past summer, she headed back to Bloomington to start police cadet training through IUPD, which is the only program in the United States that allows college students to start as cadets, go through the academy and work as part-time officers during their senior year.
Networking was an important part of Alanna’s experience. She met one K9 trainer that started out at IU’s cadet program, who worked with her current Chief of Police at IUPD. While working in any industry, you can meet people who connect to someone else in your current network.
Alanna said that many of the Amtrak officers came from the Chicago Police Department with several years of experience and wisdom.
“They taught me about the ‘behind the scenes’ of police work in Union Station as well as their past departments,” she said. “Their expertise has helped me think of potential departments and opportunities after college that I didn’t consider prior to starting the internship.”
Alanna said the officers she worked with guided her through the realities of police work and what comes with being an officer. Here’s some of what Alanna learned or saw while working with different units and teams:
She attended court several times with the investigations and patrol units. She saw the inside of the jury and courtrooms, and was able to see how the courtroom proceeds with cases for misdemeanors and felonies. At the Cook County courthouse, she saw how news stations set up when popular cases are held.
Security Camera Footage
During investigations, security camera footage can be an important part in finding an unknown suspect or locating where an incident may have happened. Usually, investigators start with the report from the officer on the call. They find the footage of where the crime occurred and where the suspect went after committing the crime. They also look for a clear view of the suspect’s face and body. Alanna learned how to use a security camera application to assist with finding potential footage of suspects and crimes.
Pick Pocketing and Theft Cases
Investigators go through security footage from around Union Station to identify the suspect. With these cases, an investigator will create a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) if the suspect wasn’t caught in the act. BOLOs are put in with the different police offices (K9, patrol, etc.) as well as mentioned at roll call when the majority of officers are present.
Taking a Train Ride
“I was able to sit in the front of the train, where the engineer controls the train, from Chicago Union Station to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin station,” she said. “While sitting in the locomotive with the engineer, I observed how he continuously controls the train’s speed, sounds, track changes, and everything in between.”
WORKING WITH K9 UNITS
K9 departments have a trainer that complete activities with the dogs to keep them alert. Training aids can be placed somewhere in the station while another officer watches to make sure a passerby doesn’t pick up the aid, or it can be held by a decoy walking through the station. Alanna got to be the decoy several times, and the K9 would pick up on the scent of explosives and follow her from behind. The trainer would instruct her to stop and Alanna would reward the dogs by throwing a ball over her shoulder.
“A big portion of being a K9 handler is the grooming, feeding and care of the dog,” she said. “I have two dogs of my own, so I learned a lot about what to do versus what not to do regarding at-home grooming, feeding, exercise, and the basics of why dogs act certain ways.”
She said a few of the handlers have dogs that eat too quickly, so they slow their dog down by adding water to their food. Alanna also brushed the dogs with a special brush that cut down on shedding. The dogs also got plenty of breaks so they could be alert for the next round of checks.
Perimeter, Vehicle, and Train Checks
The K9s and their handlers frequently check around the perimeter of Union Station’s Great Hall, food court, and concourse level. They’ll also check vehicles, unattended bags, mailrooms, and other areas where items might be brought in. Every single train can’t be checked, but they’re always surveying the station and the people who come and go. Sometime K9s will go on trains to check luggage.
GOING ON PATROL
Giving directions is a big part of the job. “With people from all over the country, and sometimes the world, many people need help navigating to their trains, to taxis, or how to get to nearby attractions,” she said.
Each day the patrol team is assigned to a spot of the station where they continuously check and maintain safety, usually officers are assigned to the food court, outside perimeter, the Great Hall, trains, and other spots around the concourse level. Patrolmen can go anywhere in the station, but they usually stay in their assigned areas.
This is where officers, sergeants, captains and the chief meet to update each other on cases, crimes, BOLOs, and news from other Amtrak Police Departments around the United States. These happen twice a day and last for 15 minutes.
“It is a good way for everyone in the department to remain on the same page and stay updated with cases,” Alanna said.
Traffic and Trains
Patrolmen assigned to the outside perimeter help with traffic during the morning and afternoon rush. The law is to keep the crosswalk clear of parked cars or cars that may be waiting for a light to change in order to allow pedestrians the right of way. However, many cars don’t follow the law, so patrol helps pedestrians cross when necessary and warns taxis, Ubers and Lyfts about picking people up in the crosswalk.
When the station is fully staffed, patrol goes on Amtrak trains to nearby destinations. Officers walk up and down the aisles to let riders know they’re available if they have any concerns.