DAF civilian police officers more than ‘gate guards’
By Kimberly Woodruff, Staff Writer
/ Published September 26, 2014
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE - Okla. -- Department of the Air Force civilian police officers have teamed up with the military members in the 72nd Security Forces Squadron, working together to protect and serve personnel and families on base.
No, the DAF civilian police officers aren't just "rent-a-cop gate guards." They are fully trained and highly qualified federal police officers employed by the United States Air Force, complete with the same authority they would have if they were serving off base.
"There is a stigma that we aren't real cops, but many of us are retired military or police officers already when we come to work for the Department of the Air Force," said Officer John Batacao, Department of the Air Force Civilian Police administrative officer.
Lt. Col. Frank Reyes, 72nd SFS commander, said the civilian DAF police officers are valued members and he's glad to have them as part of the team. He said the officers -- who collectively represent all of the four major DOD components (Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force) -- bring a diverse background including civilian law enforcement and military service.
"They are in a great position to coach, teach and mentor our Airmen while providing a safe and secure environment for Tinker and our mission partners," Colonel Reyes said.
According to Officer Batacao, the DAF officers are responsible for all aspects of force protection and law enforcement on Tinker AFB, including writing tickets and making arrests. Civilian officers are authorized to issue DD 1408 (Armed Forces traffic tickets) and DD 1805 (United States District Court Violation Notices). It should be noted the DD 1805 can generate monetary fines or require a court appearance, based on the nature of the violation.
"Yes, real fines," said Officer Batacao. "A lot of people are surprised by that."
Officer Batacao said DAF civilian police officers maintain law and order by protecting life, property and the civil rights of individuals. They prevent, detect and investigate violation of laws, rules and regulations involving accidents, crimes and misconduct involving misdemeanors and felonies.
There are currently 44 DAF civilian police officers integrated with military security forces under Colonel Reyes' command.
"Most of the officers are engaged in installation entry control or patrol duties while serving as a deterrent to crime and other violations of laws, rules and regulations," said Officer Batacao. He said their duties are performed within prescribed physical boundaries or jurisdictions, and within the boundaries, federal police officers typically have full jurisdictional authority over all violations of law, rule or regulation.
Additionally, the DAF officers are required to stay current on their physical fitness training just as their military counterparts do, and they must qualify with their weapons annually to demonstrate skill in their use.
One area of the training is in emergency response, and it has come in handy for Officer Aaron Whitehead, who recently saved a man's life in Bldg. 3001.
"God was looking out for that man," said Officer Whitehead. "I was literally right there when I received the call. The man didn't have a pulse, so the training kicked in and I started CPR."
The man survived and is retired now, but he was able to see Officer Whitehead again and tell the officer that he now has a clean bill of health with no further damage having been done to his brain or heart.
"We like the opportunity to help -- to do our job to protect and serve the Tinker community," Officer Whitehead said.
Officer Michael Biddy agrees. He said he prefers to be out working on the calls out on the road.
"It's fun and I like to get out there and help get the answers people deserve," Officer Biddy said. "We don't have the high call volume like off base, so we can put in the extra effort and follow up."
Officer Whitehead said most of the time, their contact with people is negative, but the officers are trying to change the relationship. "Either they've been speeding or they are engaged in something they shouldn't be, so when time permits, we like to get out in the community and show we really do care," he said.
Changing people's mindset on the role of the DAF police is an ongoing goal for these officers.
Officer David Randall, a police supervisor with DAF, was a detective in New Orleans for 12 years before relocating to Oklahoma following Hurricane Katrina. "Truthfully, we're not always treated with respect," he said, citing comments the officers get that they aren't really cops and they should stick with guarding the gate.
"We push forward because we're sworn police officers, and we'll do our job," he said.
With military troops being stretched due to deployments and force reduction, a fully trained DAF civilian police force, with knowledge and experience is a welcomed sight around the base. Count on these Wingmen to protect Tinker just as the military police do.