JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. –
For a select few, putting on a uniform and serving their country is more than a calling. It’s a way of life.
Some choose to answer that call by serving the military and others serve law enforcement. This week, the nation takes a moment to honor those men and women who don the blue uniform through a series of events hosted in Washington, D.C. – National Police Week.
NPW has roots dating back to 1962, when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. Through the years the week has grown in participation and events, which range from 5k foot races to bike rides and honor guard competitions to roll-call, a candlelight vigil and a memorial mass.
Law enforcement personnel from around the world, their families and survivors of fallen officers travel to the nation’s capital to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and celebrate the comradery that exists within the service.
This year, DIA sent four representatives from its police force to represent the Agency in receiving honored guests as they arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The DIA Police officers arrived first thing in the morning on Saturday, cleared security and walked through the terminal providing assistance where needed to survivors and their families.
“It’s an honor and privilege to be a law enforcement officer,” said Officer Carl Johnson of DIA Police. “To witness the tradition and the support demonstrated in National Police Week is something you’ll never forget – it’s awe-inspiring.”
The coveted, paramount event of the week is the memorial service, which began in 1982 as a small gathering of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement and has grown to more than 40,000 people each year.
Tracing the DIA Police lineage
The DIA Police force currently consists of nearly 170-billeted police officers spanning six DIA sites, including Headquarters, Reston, Charlottesville, DIA Logistics Operation Center, National Center for Medical Intelligence and Missile and Space Intelligence Center. That force is further strengthened by 26 special agents who are assigned to security investigations.
To DIA law enforcement personnel, the job is more than standing at a door, checking bags and securing the property – they take an oath, like any other federal law enforcement personnel, to serve and protect.
“We enforce the laws, uphold DIA policy and ensure everyone’s safety from inside and outside threats,” said Officer Matt Sheldon.
According to Glenn Conklin, DIA Police program manager, DIA originally formed an armed force to protect “its people, property and information” in 1963. That same force continues to grow and transition alongside the Agency and its footprint.
He explained that the “driving force behind the decision to standup an organic force in furtherance of Agency protective functions was made by the director of DIA” who at the time was Lt. Gen. Joseph Carroll. And it is by the authority of the secretary of defense and the Department of Defense that the Agency is approved to maintain its force.
DIA law enforcement personnel receive training from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which trains enforcement officers from nearly 100 different agencies, including Custom and Border Protection; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The three months of training provides standardized instruction that meets mandated criteria in order to be credentialed as federal enforcement personnel.
“The DIA Police currently operate under the auspices U.S. Marshal’s Office Special Deputation and jurisdictional and functional authority within the District of Columbia under a cooperative agreement with the Metropolitan Police Department,” Conklin explained.
Regardless if they are DIA Police officers, sergeants, captains or special agents – they must also complete annual refresher training, physical ability assessments and biannual weapons qualifications. Among the numerous duties the DIA Police are charged with, they also perform canine services; hazardous materials response activities; antiterrorism assessments; protective security details; special response teams; and global specialized protective operations in support of DIA field operations.
“Our job is to make sure DIA employees feel safe so they can do their job,” said Sheldon.
As for a typical day of work at HQ, he said, “Working here is like policing a town. You see everyone during the day, there’s a lot of activity and then, at night, everyone goes inside and the streets are quiet.”
Fortunately, since its inception, the DIA Police has not lost anyone in the line of duty and their involvement in National Police Week has been as a support element. While it may not be the most glamorous of jobs, escorting survivors and families upon arrival to D.C.-area airports and carrying their bags is important work to those who answer the call.
Echoing that message, the DIA escorts explained that they feel privileged to represent the Agency and the force at National Police Week.