An ‘80s TV show inspired Fort Lee’s new police chief to serve; his family inspired him to serve with compassion
U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee Police Chief Louis Ostmann (right) stands with his mother, Janice Ostmann, after a memorial ceremony in remembrance of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack Sept. 9, 2022, at the Combined Arms Support Command building in Fort Lee, Va. Ostmann, who took over as chief of police from the retired Joseph C. Metzger in December, said his mom was a driving factor in keeping him focused and out of trouble. (courtesy photo) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Community cultivation—a life-changing, collaborative practice since the dawn of civilization—appears as a key bullet in ‘Police Chief’ job descriptions. It falls under phrases like “create and maintain effective relationships” and “proactively coordinate with stakeholders.”

This is the kind of work that fosters a climate of community togetherness and collective compassion.

Yet, many don’t see this altruistic service as a primary function of a modern-day police chief or police force, given the critical view some take toward police officers today.

Maybe they can’t see things as clearly as Fort Lee’s new police chief Louis Ostmann at 9-years-old—when the Laurel, Maryland ‘80s child watched a Kawasaki KZP cruise an azure-sky overpass with the motorcycle’s chrome engine and the rider’s aviator sunglasses reflecting California rays.

“Awesome…and no smog!”

The TV series CHiPs inspired the fourth-grader to head over to his local police station and ask how he can protect and serve—that is—to ask if the department had any youth programs as seen in episodes like “Brat Patrol” and “Return of the Brat Patrol.”

This is how Ostmann, who became police chief in December, got his start in law enforcement and how he started the Laurel Police Department’s ‘Kids Against Crime’ program: because the CHIPs TV show explorer troop “looked really cool,” he said.

Probably most ‘80s children thought the action crime drama following two California Highway Patrol (CHP) motorcycle officers looked cool—chasing gangs of thugs at high-speeds through traffic on a Los Angeles freeway—but how many turned that appreciation into an opportunity for community service?

Not to suggest that Ostmann marched by his lonesome down to the station or that TV was his only influence. His mother, Janice, was a police dispatcher at the same police station.

As well, his father, Louis Ostmann Sr., a butcher, also worked at the Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, so Jr. had always been around Emergency Services.

“CHiPs really did kickstart his community service as a law enforcement professional,” Janice Ostmann said. “The show impressed him, and he even went to the police department because I had worked there in Laurel City. He talked to one of the civilian personnel there, wanting to do something, and they came up with ‘Kids Against Crime.’”

Ostmann then trained with other kids for more than three years in the new program.

“He loved every minute of it, and they got little T-shirts that said ‘Kids Against Crime,’ and he just continued that right on through life,” Janice said.


‘Compassion’ is often set apart from terms like ‘empathy’ or ‘sympathy’ in that the concept of ‘compassion’ includes a feeling of motivation to relieve another’s suffering.

People who regularly want to help others, aka ‘Good Samaritans,’ many times find themselves in lines of work like doctor, paramedic, police officer.

Some struggle to simply walk by another’s suffering or look the other way.

They feel like they have to act.

“I can remember the neighborhood that we lived in,” Janice said, “there was a little girl that had a little bit of mental problems. She just, you know, was slow, and you know how kids at that age, they always pick on somebody that's different, and Louis would never allow that with her.”

The young Ostmann was always very kind to her and protected her, Janice said.

“He would take-up for her all the time, make sure that she was okay and tell the other kids, ‘leave her alone,’” Janice said. “Her parents were very thankful of Louis, and they always came to me and said how proud they were of him to be so kind to their daughter.”

Janice said that Ostmann didn’t like the underdog being picked on and always stuck up for them because he wanted everyone to be treated the same.

Ostmann developed his sense of fairness and equity as the youngest of four and the only boy.

“He was a momma’s boy, and they were daddy’s girls, so it’s the same that you have in a lot of families,” Janice said. “He was ornery. He would torment them, and they would torment him, but they all stuck together and do to this day.”

Ostmann may have been a momma’s boy, but he credits his late father with being a great example of how to treat people, and not just family or friends.

“My Dad was the greatest guy I’ve ever known,” Ostmann said. “He never met a stranger. He could walk into any room, and his goal was to make everybody happier when he got there. He was just a very personable, very loving person. He was more than my hero. He was my guiding light.”

Ostmann Sr. spent a lot of his time cutting grass for several elderly individuals in town and took care of them, and he asked his children to do the same, Ostmann said.

“A lot of our time was spent cutting grass, but that was huge,” he said. “Those were great times, and my mom was that driving factor of, ‘Hey, keep your nose straight.’ She was like my enforcer, and she still is to this day.”

Ostmann continued this path toward development in servitude, people skills, comradery and relationship building outside of the home through work in the explorer program, as a military policeman, a volunteer fire department member, a rescue squad member, a Petersburg City SWAT member and many other police officer positions.

Along the way, as well, he developed a family of his own.

“My family is always my priority; I am blessed to have them,” Ostmann said. “My wife, Tina, is my rock; she has been right by my side from day one. Regardless of my day, she is always there for me to provide a sense of serenity with a kiss and hug. I have two amazing children, Shelby and Braden, who have supported me and make me the happiest father.”

Ostmann said his favorite time is just sitting together and watching his children smile.

“Honestly, I could talk all day about my wife and kids; they are my world,” he added.


Ostmann credits his team at the Provost Marshal Office for everything he has accomplished there.

“I will always give the credit to my family and team,” Ostmann said. “For my team here at the PMO, they have been the reason we have achieved success. I truly believe I have the best team around me that is hardworking and compassionate in what we do.”

In discussing the many national and state awards (mostly in the category of traffic safety) that the Fort Lee PMO has won over the 20 years that Ostmann has served Fort Lee, the new police chief said that keeping the community safe is the biggest reward.

“Making sure that we have a community that is open to everybody, and that everybody feels safe—to me, that’s the largest payout,” Ostmann said.

One could say that his heart is in the right place and that his priorities are set properly.

As well, one could say that he lives by the same values he displayed in his youth—kindness and impartiality.

“You’ve got to treat everybody with respect,” Ostmann said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re going to arrest them or if they’re, say, a VIP. You treat everybody the same.”

Community engagement has always been embedded in what Ostmann does, he said, and one of his goals is to rebuild some emergency-services-led youth programs.

“Being able to have the officers get back out on bikes in the summer and ride through the neighborhoods, the officers love it,” he said. “They love to ride around and talk to the kids; they’ll stop and play basketball. We just have to slowly work back to those great programs, and hopefully we will this summer.”

The police chief recalled a community engagement in his fifth-grade year when he got an award from the Governor of Maryland for his volunteer work with ‘Kids Against Crime.’

“The mayor allowed me to be a part of putting up the first seatbelt sign in the city, and that’s a big thing,” Ostmann said.

He remembers what it was like to be engaged in the community and working with law enforcement to make a difference as a kid, and wants to give similar opportunities to the youth here at Fort Lee.


So, while overall law enforcement and safety/security of the installation is a U.S. Army garrison police chief’s number one mission, how to best accomplish that mission can be a matter of interpretation and decision-making. This involves applying best practices and working from one’s own philosophical leanings and experiences.

“I’m a very big fan of community policing,” Ostmann said. “Interactions, events, even as far as just going out and meeting business owners, you know. When patrols are on shifts, stop into, say, AAFES and say ‘Hi.’ See how things are going and get to know the community on more of a personal level, so they know individuals and have that connection and have comfort in talking.”

That kind of communication can lead to people in the community being more open to sharing information with law enforcement because trust is built.

“I feel we’re very lucky with our community here at Fort Lee because they are willing to talk, and there’s a lot of appreciation and respect both ways,” the police chief said. “There’s a really good foundation with our community partners and within our housing communities. These are the families that we’re here to watch over and protect.”

Having served his country as an Army military policeman and as a husband and father himself, not to mention having served the Fort Lee community for 20 years, Ostmann understands well the need to protect military families while service members train and execute missions.

“Our goal is to keep the installation safe and take care of Soldiers’ families, so they can go do their military requirements,” he said. “We have to be able to provide them a sense of ease that their families are going to be protected and taken care of.”

Ostmann believes that Fort Lee is a great community that has a lot to offer its community members.

“From the residents, to the working population, to the student base, it’s like having a large city with a lot of moving parts contained within the fence line,” Ostmann said. “We have youth sports. We do a lot with youth programs, the intramural programs for the trainees, and then we have special events with ACS (Army Community Service), and they’re always reaching out to do something better for the community to pay back and say ‘thank you.’”

Ostmann said that one of his favorite community events is ‘National Night Out.’

“I love that event because we cook hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill,” he added, “and we pass them out to the community, and it’s just ‘Hey, here’s a really good open forum. Come in, have something to eat and talk to us about your concerns,’ and then, hopefully, we are able to engage in some of that for prevention and sustainment of the installation.”

With Ostmann, then, Fort Lee has a community-minded police chief who prioritizes safety and togetherness, hallmarks of civilization-building dating back 6,000 years since the Neolithic Revolution.

You could say he’s a bit of a throwback, perhaps not just an ‘80s throwback, but a throwback to human kindness and community cultivation as well.