Post police are reaching out to local and federal authorities in surrounding communities in an effort to build stronger alliances and promote safety inside and outside the gates.
Fort Benning recently staged a law enforcement forum for city police chiefs, sheriffs, deputy U.S. marshals and representatives of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, the garrison commander, hosted the roundtable, which included top officials from the Directorate of Emergency Services and Army Criminal Investigation Command. It took place Nov. 15 at the National Infantry Museum.
“We initiated this, and it was really targeting senior law enforcement leadership,” said Fort Benning police chief Kevin Clarke. “The main purpose is to have an opportunity to share information and just develop a stronger bond at the leadership level. We want to have a venue where we can discuss things that may help one another out.”
Columbus police chief Ricky Boren, Phenix City assistant police chief Robert Casteel, Russell County (Ala.) Sheriff Heath Taylor, Lee County (Ala.) Sheriff Jay Jones, Muscogee County (Ga.) Sheriff John Darr, Harris County (Ga.) Sheriff Mike Jolley and Chattahoochee County (Ga.) Sheriff Glynn Cooper were among the forum’s participants.
Clarke said Fort Benning authorities routinely deal with all of them, along with area FBI, DEA and ICE agents. The discussion offered a chance to further develop interagency investigative work and cooperation.
“This gives us an opportunity to keep solid networks going. When they do need help, we can immediately reach out and provide assistance,” he said. “Our post is relatively sealed off to the outside world. If you’re a civilian and have an issue with a Soldier, how would you figure out who to speak with in that person’s chain of command?
“By being available to them, we enable them to communicate with us more. That also helps the leadership on post. The information we’re getting, we’re passing directly on to Soldiers’ leaders.”
Clarke praised the coordination by installation and local agencies during the annual School of the Americas protest outside Fort Benning’s gates Nov. 18-20. Two command centers were set up, but they worked together on information flow, interaction and mutual support, he said.
The goal is to conduct the law enforcement forum on a quarterly basis and confer on a different topic each time. The next meeting is tentative set for January.
“It was really a simple undertaking, but it’s just something that’s been lacking,” Clarke said. “We wanted to establish a forum to bring these senior leaders together. These are our neighboring communities. It’s all about keeping our people safe, whether military or civilian. It’s neighbors helping one another out.”