Fort Polk DA police officers, MPs work to keep community safe
August 1, 2011
FORT POLK, La. (Aug. 1, 2011) -- People often have strong opinions about police officers.
When passing a patrol car parked on the side of the road, they may think, "Why are those cops sitting around?"
Or, if a police car appears behind their vehicle, they may feel they are on the verge of getting a speeding ticket.
But Fort Polk police officers, composed of Department of the Army civilians and military police from 519th Military Police Battalion, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, spend countless hours making sure the community is safe, whether helping a military spouse get rid of a spider in her house or arresting an individual under suspicion of driving under the influence.
So what really happens in the daily life of a Fort Polk police officer?
Mark Kampfer, a DA civilian police officer for Department of Emergency Services, has spent 27 years in law enforcement, and knows well the day-by-day rundown of what the job encompasses.
Kampfer, who also works as a volunteer firefighter for Sandy Hill Volunteer Fire Department and is a nationally registered emergency medical technician, said he has seen it all as a law enforcement officer.
"We get some funny calls. The funniest one was a spider call," Kampfer said. "A young lady called because she saw a big spider in her house. Her husband was deployed, so we were called to get rid of it. We found the spider, squashed it and threw it away."
But Fort Polk police officers also have serious incidents to handle.
"The only thing I have a hard time dealing with are abused children. It's hard," he said. "There are times I've dealt with it here and I've gone to church and prayed to help me work through it."
Besides answering 911 calls and patrolling areas, police officers walk the neighborhoods. Kampfer said police officers try to do two patrol walks within each unit and there are benefits of getting out of the patrol car.
"We like to get out and meet the public and let them know we are here," he said. "It gives them a sense of security and gets us familiar with our patrol areas. If anything happens, we know our way around."
After years in law enforcement, there are still things that surprise Kampfer.
"I had arrested a guy for DWI (driving while intoxicated) and he actually stopped me in the hospital and said 'thank you,'" he said.
"I was taken aback. He said 'you talked to me and you were right, I did have a problem, but I got that problem fixed and I feel like I'm a better person now. You really helped.' Hearing that made me feel good."
With the wealth of knowledge from law enforcement officers' various backgrounds, including former military and civilian law enforcement, Fort Polk's officers are able to handle any situation, Kampfer said.
Kampfer said officers work 12 hour shifts, starting at either 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. After officers draw weapons and equipment, they proceed to the police station for guard mount.
Guard mount refers to the pre-shift meeting where officers receive briefings from the desk sergeant and watch commander on things the police need to keep an eye out for while on their shift.
Officers are also designated zones to patrol. Fort Polk is broken down into three zones, with three different patrols in those areas at all times.
After guard mount, officers inspect their patrol cars in the police parking zone, ensuring everything is in working order. The vehicles are parked with their fronts facing outward to make sure officers can exit the area as fast as possible if a problem arises.
"Each aspect of the patrol car is designed for certain things that we have to do," Kampfer said.
"Each vehicle is essentially outfitted the same. Equipment includes a mobile data terminal, where we get our information from the 911 center, a police radio and a stalker radar, which we use to monitor a vehicle's speed."
Kampfer said that officers also carry a tactical bag, which has everything they need in the course of a day, an M-4 automatic rifle and medical bag.
"I'm a nationally registered emergency medical technician, so I carry a medical bag with me at all times," he said. "I also carry an automated external defibrillator. All of us are trained as first responders. I'm a big advocate for that. I generally train most of the military police and I train all DA civilian police in CPR, adult, infant and child AED and first aid."
What officers carry in their vehicles is just as important as what they carry on themselves. Beside their sidearm, handcuffs and baton, officers have a portable radio, medical gloves, ammunition and pepper spray.
It might seem like a lot of equipment to the ordinary person, but officers spend two weeks every year training to better protect and serve the Fort Polk community.
"A week of that is spent in the classroom, going over things like sexual harassment, JAG (Judge Advocate General) and new laws. The following week is all hands-on. We go to the range to qualify with our sidearm and we train in unarmed self-defense."
DA police are not alone in keeping the Fort Polk community safe. The officers work with Soldiers from the 519th MP Bn.
"There's not one of us that can function without the other. It's one concept. We work in conjunction with them, and they work in conjunction with us to serve the Fort Polk community better," Kampfer said.
Sgt. Eddie Flores, 91st MP Detachment, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the traffic division, said there are many instances where the two groups help each other.
"I work with a lot of the DA civilians (police) in the traffic section and all I can say is that they are wonderful guys, they'll help you out in a heartbeat," Flores said.
"They'll punch out the clock and stay behind to help you investigate a traffic accident, or any special event that's going on. They're rightthere with us."
Whether its manning post events like CajunFest and FreedomFest or setting up traffic control points so kids to get to school safely, Flores said a lot of planning is involved.
"I don't think the community sees that a lot. Sometimes when they see us out there, they see our presence as unnecessary or a joke. For instance, we'll be waving people through a traffic point and they'll speed by us or rev their engines as they drive by. The stuff we do out here is important and it's for the overall safety of Fort Polk and the community. We always watch and we're always here to help."
Kampfer said he thinks there's a misconception that law enforcement officers are trying to give people a "hard time."
Instead, officers try to educate the community on remaining safe, whether it means wearing a helmet while on a bike or acknowledging the posted speed limit signs.
"What the community may not know is that we have all these assets in place to serve them. Often they think the only thing we do is drive around and eat donuts, which is not the case. Yes, we do drive around, but we're watching. We're continually doing something. We're here for them," Kampfer said.