By Heather Huber, Courier staffJuly 2, 2010
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (July 1, 2010) -- Fort Campbell's Military Police has proven for a third time that they're the best Military Police force in the nation when it comes to traffic safety.
Since 2004, the MP's have been participating in the International Association of Chiefs' of Police National Law Enforcement Challenge, a competition between similar sizes and types of law enforcement agencies that recognizes and rewards the best overall traffic safety programs across the United States.
In the six years they've competed, they've faced off against other military police from all branches of the armed services, first in a state level competition and then at the national level. In that time they've received three first places, two second places and one third.
"I don't like to think of it just as the fact we put together a good book, I believe we actually have a very good solid traffic safety program and we do a lot of things," said Officer Keith Shumate, deputy provost marshal. "The things that we do traffic safety-wise on the installation also translate off the installation, because if we encourage Soldiers and Families to drive safer here, they will take that with them outside the gate."
To enter the competition, members of each law enforcement community must submit a packet which documents their agency's efforts and effectiveness in the areas of enforcing laws and educating the public about occupant protection, impaired driving and speeding. At Fort Campbell, the packet is a year-long undertaking because it requires not only statistical documentation, but photographic documentation as well.
For 2009, that duty fell to Officer Eric Coulter, operations officer.
"A lot of it looks at programs that we do and then the results of those programs," Coulter said. "One of the things we have to take into account every year is whether the Division's here or not. We want to give a per capita amount so we're giving true reporting. We don't want the Division to come back and suddenly our numbers are so high."
A big part of how Fort Campbell stays top-notch is through training both their own officers and the community.
"Fort Campbell prides itself on the level of training we give our officers," Coulter said. "We give them nationally certified training. Not to take away from the MP training, we take it a step further. That's a good basis for them. The Military Police receive nationally recognized [Driving Under the Influence] prevention and traffic stop training. So they're getting the same level or higher training than an officer outside the gates."
Impaired driving is one of the big areas covered in the competition, as well as what the installation does to prevent incidents.
Fort Campbell works to prevent DUIs with unit-level training on the effects of impaired driving by explaining what happens to the body when under the influence. Shumate said they are planning DUI awareness briefings for units as they redeploy.
To aide in the training, the MP's have a computer that shows how alcohol is burned off based on body weight and metabolism, Fatal Vision Goggles - which simulate the visual impairment caused by alcohol or other drugs, often resulting in loss of equilibrium - and SIDnE the simulated impaired driving experience.
"SIDnE is basically an electric go cart that we don't have to get you drunk to show you how alcohol affects your ability to control the vehicle," Shumate said. "We have the ability to inject delays into the braking and the steering to show how alcohol affects your ability to drive."
Other than DUI, Fort Campbell is also graded on passenger safety, such as seat belt usage. Fort Campbell has a 99 percent seat belt usage rate compared to Tennessee's 82 percent. Coulter said the Installation Safety Directorate helped get an accurate count.
"One of the things early on that we learned, when we talk about selective traffic or the ways that we can change the way people do things, we talk about the three E's of traffic enforcement - Education, Engineering and Enforcement," Coulter said. "We say that enforcement piece last because the role of enforcement is to change their behavior."
Coulter said the police department would rather change behavior through education than punishment. That's why there are so many more speed and message boards - such as the seat belt signs and the digital displays at all the gates - across the installation than off post.
In places where education and signs don't work, they engineer ways to attempt to force drivers to slow down, such as the concrete poles outside Gate 7. They are designed to reduce traffic speed as drivers exit Fort Campbell.
It's not until both education and engineering fail that the MP's set up harsher enforcement in an area.
"It's how all those programs wrap up," Coulter said. "Then at the end of the year, it's the number of citations written, the reduction of DUI, the increase of seat belt usage. All those things over all, and then to try to get a reduction of accidents on post - we've had a very good reduction of accidents on post per capita over the previous year."
Between 2008 and 2009, there was a 6 percent reduction in accident rates on post and only one traffic fatality since 2004.
Fort Campbell will receive a plaque and banner in October for winning nationally, and the police department often receives equipment as well.