Partnering on Common Ground: The US Military and Local Law Enforcement

image of army man's shoulder in camaflogue with american flag badgeCollaborations between U.S. military police and local law enforcement are excellent examples of advancing community policing through partnerships. One such partnership is thriving in Newport News, Virginia, home to the Army’s Fort Eustis.  With a strong military presence in the surrounding Hampton Roads metropolitan area – including not only Fort Eustis, but also Langley Air Force Base, Norfolk Naval Station, and numerous smaller installations – the Newport News Police Department (NNPD) regularly works with local military police to address crime and disorder problems both on base and off. 

Trust and acknowledgment of their common public safety interests are at the foundation of the relationship. Lt. Morgan Tietjens of NNPD emphasized that “it is critical to establish a personal relationship through face-to-face contact with the base military police in order to really get to know each others’ objective and interest and to establish trust”. Once trust is established, information sharing soon follows, which is central to the operations of a problem-oriented policing focused department. This agency-wide commitment influences their relationship with their military partners in a variety of ways. An example of this influence is NNPD’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID), which invites the Army’s CID to attend the department’s weekly crimes meeting, in which confidential and non-confidential investigative information is exchanged.

Another example of cooperation between the two departments is the involvement of the NNPD in the military Traffic Safety Program. NNPD provides assistance with the Motorcycle Safety course, which is mandatory for military personnel who ride motorcycles, and gives briefings on local traffic safety conditions to military members who are relocating to the Newport News area.  These types of partnership activities help to solidify this long-term collaboration. Additionally, NNPD’s Community Resource Officer is involved with the in-processing of incoming military members by providing them with briefings about local community crime and disorder problems.

NNPD and the local MPs also regularly share resources. Langley AFB makes their K-9 dogs available to assist in local narcotic operations, while Fort Eustis and NNPD have a joint operational Firing Range that both civilian and military police utilize for training—the Army provided the land on the base and the NNPD provided the actual construction. The Coast Guard, through the support of a Homeland Security Grant, partners with NNPD in the escorting and boarding of ships for inspections. Finally, the local police department takes a great deal of pride in assisting the Marine Corps with their annual Toys for Tots program.

Perhaps it is in part due to this wide-reaching relationship with the local military establishment that NNPD has also done much within their own agency to assist staff members who are also military reservists. The agency’s “Activation and Reintegration of Military Employees” policy applies to military employees who are absent from the police department for a period of 90 days or longer due to their military service. As part of the department’s operational manual, this policy provides specific procedures for pre-deployment, deployment, reintegration, and re-acclimation implementation. The Military Support Officer (MSO)—a departmental employee identified by the deploying member—serves as a liaison between the military reservist and the police department throughout the rotation. Upon completion of military duty, a re-acclimation process encompasses gradual, pre-determined steps which are intended to give the returning employee the opportunity to comfortably and successfully reintroduce themselves into their police positions following deployment.  The advantage of these policies and procedures, Lt. Tietjen says, is that “When they come back stateside, they are able to maneuver their way back into being a police officer in a way that’s not overwhelming.  There’s an established process that occurs.  Things move gradually so that they can require their comfort level.  But, first and foremost, they know that we care.  The department and the personnel care about them, their families, and their wellbeing.”  To provide additional assistance to service members on the force, the department established a Reserves and Guard committee comprised of NNPD military reservists and National Guard members, who provide further support and information to any departmental employee who is deploying or returning from deployment.

Readers interested in learning more about NNPD’s Activation and Reintergration of Military employees policy are encouraged to contact Lt. Tietjens at the NNPD, as well as read the COPS publication, “Combat Deployment and the Returning Officer,” available at: http://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/ResourceDetail.aspx?RID=471

 

-Linda R. Gist
Supervisory Senior Policy Analyst
The COPS Office

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