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MetroLink

A MetroLink train is out of service at the repair yard next to Scott Avenue and Jefferson Avenue on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Metro Transit’s top two security officials were ousted Friday amid what the operation’s new chief executive said is an effort to coordinate better with local police departments in protecting MetroLink passengers.

Sources said Richard Zott, Metro’s public safety chief since 2012, and Jason Davis, his top assistant, are both leaving.

Taulby Roach, who took over Jan. 1 as president of Metro’s parent agency — the Bi-State Development Agency — confirmed he had made a change in Metro’s security management.

He said he has tapped Scott Grott, MetroLink’s general manager, to be in charge of security on an interim basis along with his other duties.

Roach said he would seek to hire someone with public safety expertise and “how it applies in a transit environment” to fill the role on a permanent basis.

As for Zott’s and Davis’ employment status, Roach said, “I can’t discuss specific personnel issues.” Zott and Davis could not be reached for comment.

The move comes after friction in recent years between Bi-State/Metro and St. Louis County police over how to patrol MetroLink amid a spate of high-profile violent crimes.

County Executive Steve Stenger also has clashed on other issues with Roach’s predecessor at Bi-State, John Nations, who resigned.

Roach, a longtime transit consultant for St. Clair County, was hired in November by Bi-State’s board.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and either Stenger or a Stenger aide sat in on meetings of the board’s executive search committee.

Regarding security, Roach said Friday that “we need to pivot in a new direction (and) part of it is to recast and coordinate better with our professional police departments.”

St. Louis County police oversee a MetroLink law enforcement task force that also includes St. Louis police and the St. Clair County sheriff’s department.

In addition, Metro maintains its own contingent of security officers and contracts with private security guards.

Roach said in addition to strengthening relationships with police departments, he wants to retool Metro’s security operations.

Metro security officers will be told to be more “engaging” with customers “so they not only feel safe on the train” but also “comfortable on the train.”

That’s among the likely recommendations of a consulting firm hired by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments to review MetroLink security practices.

The firm, New York-based WSP USA Inc., is expected to submit its final report to Gateway’s board next month.

Before joining Bi-State/Metro, Zott was special agent in charge of the U.S. Defense Department’s criminal investigative service for the Midwest region. Davis, the former assistant chief of security, is a former St. Louis police officer.

Mark Schlinkmann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.