The Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board and its role in cracking down on off-post shops that legally sell a synthetic drug called Spice were among issues discussed at Fort Benning’s second law enforcement forum.
Increased enforcement of the speed limit along U.S. Route 27/280 by Fort Benning and Columbus police was another major topic during the session, which involved city police chiefs, local sheriffs, deputy U.S. marshals and representatives of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It took place Jan. 19 at the police firing range complex in Russell County, Ala.
Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, the garrison commander, hosted the roundtable. Participants included top officials from the Directorate of Emergency Services and Army Criminal Investigation Command.
It’s part of an outreach effort with area and federal authorities in surrounding communities to build stronger alliances and promote safety inside and outside the gates, Fort Benning police chief Kevin Clarke said.
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“This is really targeted at that senior law enforcement and executive level,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to explain things that are happening on Fort Benning. We’re a unique animal in law enforcement. A federal installation operates a lot differently than a town or municipality. Everything that happens here has some impact on the surrounding community.”
Clarke said he explained the process behind the post’s Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, a panel charged with maintaining a list of local establishments and businesses “off limits” to Department of Defense personnel. It also addresses 13 different conditions as they apply to behavior that could place Soldiers at risk.
An installation policy that emerged from the board two years ago is a letter prohibiting Soldiers from using or possessing narcotic analogues such as Spice, Clarke said.
“The drug is sold legally in places around town,” he said.
“It’s a synthetic drug that simulates the effects of marijuana and acts as a substitute or alternative. A couple of years ago, the board made a recommendation to the (commanding general) that led to banning the use or possession of Spice.”
Its five original synthetic components are now on the DEA’s federally controlled substance list. But Clarke said merchants have figured out a way to manufacture Spice with different ingredients that can pack just as much punch.
“Spice is still being sold legally, but without those illegal components,” he said. “They’re using different substances to get a buzz. We’re targeting that now. Basically, if you’re selling Spice in any form, we’re going to recommend that the CG place the establishment off limits.”
Meanwhile, speeding on U.S. Route 27/280 became a big concern for the command in the weeks leading up to the forum, Clarke said. Fort Benning police are responsible for about 10 miles of the highway.
“We’ve increased our ticketing out there, but the Columbus Police Department did as well,” he said. “Since the CG expressed concern about speeding out there, Columbus has issued 300 tickets. It was an immediate response to our request for assistance. They’ve been a fantastic neighbor.”
He said all the agencies, sheriffs and police departments again shared information to further develop tips, investigative work and cooperation. The goal is to conduct the law enforcement forum on a quarterly basis, about a week after the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board session. The next forum is tentatively set for April.
“We want to talk about things that are important to all of us,” he said. “As this continues, our hope is to transition toward open sessions where everybody is sharing something that’s important to the safety of everyone.”