- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2002

Police officers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center arrested a man wanted for drug dealing and driving without a license. Instead of taking him to jail, however, they say they had no choice but to escort him to the gate and let him drive away.
A recent catch-and-release policy imposed on police here has further reduced their powers, making it almost impossible to maintain law and order inside and outside this hospital on 16th Street NW.
Officer Darnell Davis Sr., who has been trying to restore the full police powers of the hospital's officers, said the case of the drug dealer is not an isolated incident. Police once stopped a doctor working at the medical center and found he hasn't had a driver's license for five years. On another occasion, a woman got into a fistfight with an officer and injured his shoulder.
All got off.
"All three individuals were taken to the gate and let go, because we had no power to arrest them," Officer Davis said.
The woman and the purported drug dealer came back during other shifts, he said. The doctor without the driver's license was permitted to go to work. D.C. police never were notified of any of the incidents.
The Washington Times reported in December that William J. Bolduc, chief provost marshal at Walter Reed, had reduced the police powers of his officers when he rescinded an agreement with the Metropolitan Police Department.
The agreement, signed in 1997, allowed Walter Reed officers to arrest and transport individuals committing misdemeanors and minor felonies on the base to the Fourth District precinct on Georgia Avenue for further processing.
But Col. Randal C. Treiber, garrison commander at Walter Reed, said the civilian police officers at the base are not federal officers and have no powers to arrest or transport civilians past its gates.
The Posse Comitatus Act prevents military and civilian officers employed by the armed forces from enforcing laws against private U.S. citizens in effect preventing martial law by the military.
The primary duty of police officers at the Army hospital is to guard and protect government property from sabotage, theft or willful destruction, Col. Treiber said. Their secondary role is to protect the life, property and civil rights of persons.
"By that definition, our officers are not law enforcement officers; they are a guard force and do not have any statutory powers to arrest anyone," he said.
He said the memorandum agreement between Walter Reed and D.C. police granted powers to officers that are not actually allowed. The officers never should have been permitted to transport civilians in custody to Fourth District precinct because "they have no authority to arrest anybody and no powers beyond the gates," Col. Treiber said.
He said the agreement with the D.C. police needed to be reviewed because neither he nor any current command staff at Walter Reed had signed it.
Col. Treiber said the Army's position is clearly stated in the laws and regulations in the military police law-and-order mission.
However, the courts have upheld cases in which civilians were arrested by military police officers.
An appeals case involving a civilian car thief at Fort Hood in Texas resulted in the federal appeals court upholding the 1996 breaking-and-entering conviction of Jason Mullin. In 1999, the court rejected the argument of Mr. Mullin's attorney that his client's interrogation and 24-hour detention by military police, which led to a confession, were illegal under the Posse Comitatus Act.
Officer Patrick Hayes, vice chairman of the Walter Reed Fraternal Order of Police labor committee, said the union's position is that civilian officers are exempt from that law under Pentagon regulations, but that the commanders at his base and at other bases around the country use it against the civilian police force hired by the military.
Col. Treiber said the problem is a result of the District not having a U.S. Magistrate Court of military justice set up to prosecute civilian offenders who commit crimes on the base.
But Officer Davis said, "That is why they came up with the memoranda agreement in the first place: so D.C. police could take them and prosecute offenders in D.C. Superior Court."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide