WASHINGTON – Law enforcement officers from the American Federation of Government Employees gathered in Washington today in support of H.R. 324, a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Filner, D-CA, which amends Title 10, US Code, to provide civilian police officers, criminal investigators and game law enforcement officers of the Department of Defense with authority to execute warrants, make arrests and carry firearms.
Department of defense civilian police officers do not have a statutory authority to arrest, thereby they are required to sign a statement that reaffirms their authority is limited to, and only valid while on post and in a duty status. If an officer is “off the clock” on or off post, and a subject commits a felony in his or her presence, he or she has to act counter to what they have been charged and trained to do, to preserve and protect the people in harm’s way, and not act at all. If the officer chooses to intercede on behalf of the public interest, he or she opens themselves to civil liability.
“H.R. 324 will allow us to be more effective at our jobs, will allow us to act in accordance with our training, and will make the bases and communities in which we live and serve safer places to be,” said Roger Neff, a member of the AFGE Law Enforcement Committee. “It codifies the authority already given by the base commander, clarifies issues associated with the Law Enforcement Safety Act as it deals with statutory powers of arrest, and clarifies issues dealing with persons not subject to military law.”
Thousands of DOD civilian police officers place their lives on the line on a daily basis in order to ensure the safety and security of government property, personal property, service members, federal employees, and the public in general. Many of these officers have made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in the line of duty, and their names have been placed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC. They wear traditional police uniforms; they drive marked police vehicles, which are equipped with emergency lights and sirens, and issue citations/summons to court. In general, they are required to be law enforcement officers in every sense of the word without the basic legislated authorities of a police officer.
“These same police officers off duty, while on their respective military communities, are not authorized to act in accordance with their duties, despite what they have been trained for,” explained Neff. “If a crime occurs and an officer does not act, the public perceives an apathetic example of public service, justifying the mistrust that the profession of law enforcement has worked diligently to overcome. It’s a no win situation that H.R 324 aims to correct.
“We’d like to thank Congressman Filner for his unwavering support of this issue and for sponsoring H.R. 324,” concluded Neff. “Military communities deserve a professional, community-oriented law enforcement service; and DOD police officers deserve the same recognition and rights as other law enforcement organizations. This bill will go a long way in ensuring these officers achieve that equality.”