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Alongside Airmen, DOD police guard Tinker, serve community

A team of new police officers, including Seth Ryan, left, and Brent Huddleston, burst into a room during an active-shooter scenario training session on base.  In more than 120 hours of initial training, the new officers will learn how to respond to domestic violence and child abuse situations, community oriented policing and use of force. (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

A team of new police officers, including Seth Ryan, left, and Brent Huddleston, burst into a room during an active-shooter scenario training session on base. In more than 120 hours of initial training, the new officers will learn how to respond to domestic violence and child abuse situations, community oriented policing and use of force. (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

During a patrol of the base, Officer Tipton stops a speeding driver.  He prefers to educate drivers, not write tickets, taking everything about each situation into account. “I’m not out to get anybody, ruin someone’s day.  Just out to enforce the law,” he said.  Depending on the violation, some tickets can earn a careless driver more than just points against their base driving privileges; certain violations will show on their driving record and affect their insurance. (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

During a patrol of the base, Officer Tipton stops a speeding driver. He prefers to educate drivers, not write tickets, taking everything about each situation into account. “I’m not out to get anybody, ruin someone’s day. Just out to enforce the law,” he said. Depending on the violation, some tickets can earn a careless driver more than just points against their base driving privileges; certain violations will show on their driving record and affect their insurance. (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

In the 72nd Security Forces Squadron’s Base Defense Operations Center, as all across base, military security forces work beside the DOD police officers.  Airman 1st Class Jonathan White and Officer Smith practice plotting a cordoned area as they would during a real-world emergency or an exercise. (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

In the 72nd Security Forces Squadron’s Base Defense Operations Center, as all across base, military security forces work beside the DOD police officers. Airman 1st Class Jonathan White and Officer Smith practice plotting a cordoned area as they would during a real-world emergency or an exercise. (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

Officer Davidson checks identification of a driver entering through the Hruskocy Gate during the morning influx of employees. To many Tinker workers and visitors, the officers that safeguard the gates are the only law enforcement they see so the name “gate guard” is frequently used. But the Department of Defense police provide base and personnel protection in many more roles. (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

Officer Davidson checks identification of a driver entering through the Hruskocy Gate during the morning influx of employees. To many Tinker workers and visitors, the officers that safeguard the gates are the only law enforcement they see so the name “gate guard” is frequently used. But the Department of Defense police provide base and personnel protection in many more roles. (Air Force photos by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- They are not gate guards.

The 70 Department of Defense civilians who oversee Tinker's gates are police officers. But, gate-guard duty is just one aspect of their job. They also perform a host of other responsibilities that range from patrolling the installation, responding to domestic calls, alarms and traffic accidents. Despite their contributions, many Tinker personnel can't see beyond their blue uniforms and often mistake them as only "gate guards."

"We constantly have issues with personnel thinking we're contracted gate guards from a year ago," said Officer Rohrer, day shift police supervisor. "But the reality is they could get a $200 ticket from us. We're cops, federal police officers."

Before the hiring of police officers, contractors guarded Tinker's gates and had performed the task for roughly five years. But, in those years, there had been an influx in deployments. By appointing a civilian force to guard the gates and augment other police functions, the 72nd Security Forces Squadron could offset a portion of the deploying Airmen.

"Without getting too specific, the squadron accomplishes its in-garrison mission with 25 to 30 percent of its active duty strength deployed in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom," said Senior Airman Luke Pagan of the 72nd SFS Operations Administration. "The police officers in the unit definitely help."

The civilian force began training Aug. 31, 2009, with a four-week on-base training regimen. They also participated in a five-week course at the Veterans Affairs police academy in Arkansas, qualified to handle a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol and an M4 Carbine assault rifle, and were required to meet Air Force physical training standards.

These days their priorities include protecting the base, preserving life and providing a safe and orderly environment for Tinker personnel and residents. Working day, swing or night shifts, their schedules are five days on and two days off.

Like their security forces counterparts, the officers have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Officer Rohrer (pronounced roar), who spent 21 years in the Navy as a police officer before coming to Tinker, said several of the patrolmen were previously police officers for a military branch or worked in the federal, state, county or town capacity.

Officer Geis, a patrolman who previously served in the Marines and in the DOD Air National Guard at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., said he enjoys working at Tinker.

"I like everything," he said. "We have a great crew that melds well together and we're here to serve you -- the public, the people."

Officer Tipton, who previously served as a police officer in Mangum and Hobart, two small Oklahoma towns, agreed.

"We have a good camaraderie, there's never a doubt that someone will back you up," he said.