United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police

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United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police (Service)
Common name Veterans Affairs Police
USA - Veterans Affairs Police.png
Patch of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police (Service).
US-DeptOfVeteransAffairs-Seal.svg
Seal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Badge of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police.png
Badge of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police (Service).
Flag of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.svg
Flag of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Motto "Protecting those who served"
Agency overview
Formed 1973
Preceding agency VA Protective Service (1930)
Employees 3,200+
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
United States
Legal jurisdiction All properties owned, leased or occupied by the Department of Veterans Affairs and not under the control of the General Services Administration
General nature
Specialist jurisdiction
Operational structure
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Agency executive Frederick Jackson, Director
Parent agency United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Website
http://www.osp.va.gov/OSandLE_Overview.asp

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police is the uniformed law enforcement service of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, responsible for the protection of the VA Medical Centers and other facilities such as VA hospitals (VAMC), Outpatient Clinics (OPC) and Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) operated by United States Department of Veterans Affairs and its subsidiary components of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) as well as the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) respectively. The VA Police have several divisions and operate separately but alongside the VA Law Enforcement Training Center (VA LETC) under the umbrella of the Office of Security and Law Enforcement. The primary role of VA Police is to serve as a protective uniformed police force in order to deter and prevent crime, maintain order, and investigate crimes (ranging from summary to felony offenses) which may have occurred within the jurisdiction of the Department or its federal assets. Some cases are investigated in conjunction with agents from the Office of the Inspector General (VA OIG).

The Office of Security and Law Enforcement (OS&LE) is the parent agency of the VA Police within the Law Enforcement Oversight & Criminal Investigation Division (LEO/CID) which provides national oversight to individual VA Police Services at each location throughout the United States. They also facilitate support, guidance, funds and regulation of the Police Service and their corresponding independent facilities. Upper level management and specialty positions other than Police Officer include (in no particular order); Detective and Special Agent (Criminal Investigator). Other semi standardized rank structures are developed within each VA Police Service at the local level. These serve to reflect job title, function, and/or role and range from Sergeant to Chief. The VA Police also maintain groups of specialty service elements such as K-9, bicycle, boat and motorcycle patrols.

The VA Police are an armed, federal law enforcement and protective service entity that operates in and around the various Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, National Cemeteries and other VA facilities located throughout the whole of United States to include Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Among others, the VA Police are a specialized federal law enforcement agency, whose officers have full police powers derived from statutory authority to enforce all federal laws, VA rules and regulations, and to make arrests on VA controlled property whether owned or leased.

VA Police encounters and methods of law enforcement are often unique due to the fact that the majority of their work is conducted in and around a clinical or medical setting. Enhanced methodology and incident solutions (including advanced interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, and problem solving skills) are required by their officers to be successful; as in addition to the full range of incidents and calls for service one might normally associate with police work, the VA Police also often encounter trained military veterans suffering from medical and psychological traumas. Beyond normal law enforcement contact with the general public, VA Police officers also work in an environment which includes an extremely high percentage of individuals (to include patients and even other VA employees) who are military trained veterans (with an increasingly large number of individuals who are returning combat veterans). VA Police officers must strive to enforce the law while working with other VA staff to maintain an equitable balance; ensuring that the medical needs of the veterans/patients are being met while at the same time continuing to operate as a full federal law enforcement agency.

Although the Office of Security and Law Enforcement exists and policies and training are standardized, VA Police operate throughout the United States under the direction of individual facility directors (much like a municipal agency would function under a mayor), causing an extensive amount of difference in operational format. VA Police personnel serving in the Executive Protection Division provide Protective Services for the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Affairs Police (Service) is made up of over 2800 appointed officers and administrative personnel. The agency's motto is "Protecting Those Who Served".

History[edit]

Older pre-2012 VA Police Badge

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs was founded in 1930. The VA Protective Service was established that year and was charged with maintaining order, protecting persons and property, and ensuring fire safety. As the VA evolved, the fire safety role was turned over to the Engineering Service and the Protective Service became a security guard force (OPM GS 0085 series).

By 1973 U.S. federal law, the guard force was abolished and the VA Police (0083 series) was established. The President and Congress made this decision due in part to the changing needs of the VA and an increase in police-related matters not usually handled by a guard force or community law enforcement agencies. The agency has expanded in size since its inception and it now constitutes the largest uniformed federal police agency in the United States.

Statutory Authority[edit]

38 U.S.C. § 902 : US Code - Section 902: Enforcement and arrest authority of Department police officers

-STATUTE-

(a)(1) Employees of the Department who are Department police officers shall, with respect to acts occurring on Department property—

(A) enforce Federal laws;

(B) enforce the rules prescribed under section 901 of this title;

(C) enforce traffic and motor vehicle laws of a State or local government (by issuance of a citation for violation of such laws) within the jurisdiction of which such Department property is located as authorized by an express grant of authority under applicable State or local law;

(D) carry the appropriate Department-issued weapons, including firearms, while off Department property in an official capacity or while in an official travel status;

(E) conduct investigations, on and off Department property, of offenses that may have been committed on property under the original jurisdiction of Department, consistent with agreements or other consultation with affected Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies; and

(F) carry out, as needed and appropriate, the duties described in subparagraphs (A) through (E) when engaged in duties authorized by other Federal statutes. (2) Subject to regulations prescribed under subsection (b), a Department police officer may make arrests on Department property for a violation of a Federal law or any rule prescribed under section 901 (a) of this title, and on any arrest warrant issued by competent judicial authority. (b) The Secretary shall prescribe regulations with respect to Department police officers. Such regulations shall include—

(1) policies with respect to the exercise by Department police officers of the enforcement and arrest authorities provided by this section;

(2) the scope and duration of training that is required for Department police officers, with particular emphasis on dealing with situations involving patients; and

(3) rules limiting the carrying and use of weapons by Department police officers. (c) The powers granted to Department police officers designated under this section shall be exercised in accordance with guidelines approved by the Secretary and the Attorney General.

Expanded authority signed into law on May 5, 2010 by the President Of The United States (becoming Public Law No: 111-163).

[1]

Line-of-duty deaths[edit]

Seven officers of the VA Police died in the line of duty:[2]

  • Marvin C. Bland, age 34, was killed in an automobile accident on September 6, 1985, while responding to a fire alarm at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts.
  • Mark S. Decker, age 31, and Leonard B. Wilcox, age 37, were shot and killed on January 31, 1986, while attempting to question a suspicious man at the Brecksville VA Hospital in Brecksville, Ohio. Both Decker and Wilcox were armed only with mace due to administrative guidelines. While the officers were talking with the man he pulled out a .45 caliber handgun and shot Officer Decker, killing him instantly. Officer Wilcox attempted to run for cover, but the suspect chased him before shooting him as well. The killer was sentenced to two life terms for the murders.
  • Ronald Hearn, age 49, was shot and killed on July 25, 1988 at the Bronx VA Hospital in New York City. The alarm was set off when a man walked through the metal detector; when Hearn approached the man, he pulled out a gun and shot Hearn, who was wearing a vest but was shot between the two panels. At the time of Hearn's death VA Police were not supplied vests or firearms.
  • Garry A. Ross, age 41, died from a heart attack on December 24, 1990 at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C.. Ross died after responding to a call of a mentally deranged patient, who assaulted him several times. Ross suffered a massive heart attack after he restrained the patient.
  • Horst Harold Woods, age 46, was shot and killed on January 10, 1996, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Woods had approached a man kneeling beside his patrol car; when Woods approached him from the opposite side of the car, the man stood up, exchanged words with Woods, and then shot him in the back of his head as Woods turned away. The man was arrested later the same day. The suspect was arrested a short time later by Air Force Security Police Law Enforcement Officers, now called Security Forces from Kirtland Air Force Base, where he was found with "two extra fully loaded magazines, an 18-inch bowie knife and a long-barreled Derringer loaded with two shotgun shells."
  • Jose Oscar Rodriguez-Reyes, age 53, was shot and killed on April 24, 2002 while stationed at a gate at the VA Medical Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Rodriguez-Reyes was attacked by two men for unknown reasons and shot in the head and chest. The two attempted to steal Rodriguez-Reyes' service weapon but were unable to remove it from the holster. Rodriguez-Reyes was the first armed VA Police officer to be killed in the line of duty. Two suspects were arrested by the FBI. Charged with murder, the suspect who shot Rodriguez-Reyes was convicted in July 2006.

Personnel[edit]

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police currently have entry qualifications comparable to other Law enforcement in the United States. All VA Police Officers are required to have either a minimum of two years of experience in law enforcement with arrest authority (in federal, state, municipal, or military police), or have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Applicants must also undergo a physical abilities test, fingerprinting, physical examination, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) psychological evaluation and background investigation.

Upon selection, VA Police Officers go through an eight-week basic training course (academy) at the VA Law Enforcement Training Center (LETC) located on Fort Logan H. Roots in Little Rock, Arkansas alongside the Eugene J. Towbin Veterans Medical Center. Additionally, VA Police Officers receive continuous in-service and specialized training (Written, Practical, and Scenario based) to include intermediate weapons, tactical and low light firearms, contact and arrest procedures on a regular basis. Officers may also partake in a series of advanced training courses offered by VA LETC on a selective basis to include crime scene investigations, traffic accident investigations, and technical surveillance.

VA Police Officers are certified in CPR (as first responders), the use of Oleoresin Capsicum Pepper spray, the MEB Manadnock Expandable Police Baton, and the Beretta 92D 9mm sidearm. However, the agency is in the process of completing the transition to the SIG Sauer P229 DAK Version (Uniformed Officers) and SIG Sauer P239 DAK Version (Plain clothed Officials/Investigators) chambered in 9 mm. Measures of additional standards and training were undertaken and implemented by the whole VA LETC academy in order to successfully achieve FLETA accreditation, which was officially granted on November 17, 2011. This accreditation placed the academy (and selected courses) on par with other well known federal law enforcement training centers and programs such as Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Training, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), and the U.S. Secret Service James J. Rowley Training Center. The Department of Veterans Affairs Law Enforcement Training Center (LETC) often serves as a training program that is capable of meeting the training requirements for DoD Officers and their respective installations. The Department of the Air Force routinely sends their civilian Police Officers to the VA LETC in an effort to meet or exceed their requirements for base security and law and order operations.

Like the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the VA Police are not members of the Law Enforcement Retirement System (LERS), and do not enjoy the same retirement benefits as most other federal law enforcement officers (20 years of service and out). Legislation has been proposed several times to change this (H.R. 1002), but the last effort failed to make it out of committee in the 109th Congress. There have been no successful attempts to change this as of the beginning of the 2013 United States Federal Fiscal Year.

Legislation to expand the powers and authority of the Veterans Affairs Police was eventually rolled into the S.1963 - Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 Bill (proposed law) and was re-introduced in the 111th Congress on Oct 28, 2009. The Bill passed the United States Senate on Nov 19, 2009, passed the United States House of Representatives on Apr 21, 2010, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on May 5, 2010 becoming Public Law No: 111-163. The GPO (Government Printing Office) has officially published this law in its roles, noting that the law (and therefore the increased uniform allowance and expanded authority of the VA Police to include the ability to conduct investigations, on and off Department property, took legal effect on January 7, 2011.

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