By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
Fort Hood police officers Mark Todd and Kimberly Munley are considered American heroes after they stopped alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan on Nov. 5.
But under federal law, they rank as second-rate law enforcement.
They and other Department of Defense civilian police are not eligible for the same concealed carry privileges, pensions and off-post authority afforded other federal law enforcement officers.
The disparity exposes civilian police to life-threatening situations when they leave post. The gap shortchanges them thousands of dollars throughout their careers and when they retire.
Three Congressional resolutions (HR 673, HR 675 and HR 3752) aim to put civilian police officers on the same level. The resolutions are waiting to be reviewed in Congressional subcommittees. Various forms of these bills have died without action during recent Congressional sessions.
The Fort Hood massacre cries out for civilian police to be on the same level because all law enforcement are asked to risk their lives, said Rep. James Forbes (R-Va,) in December. Forbes sponsored HR 673.
"When we go into a situation, we go in expecting the worst and hoping for the best," Fort Hood patrol officer Larry Kuczenski said in December. "We deal with murders and domestic assaults. ...We see everything and sometimes more."
When Fort Hood Police Sgt. George Sinner leaves Fort Hood, he is vulnerable to retaliation from people he has arrested. DOD civilian police do not have a concealed carry privilege given to most off-duty Federal and state law enforcement.
Sinner said his 7-year-old granddaughter notices the stares when they go to H-E-B together.
She asks, "Papa, why's he staring at us?"
"I arrested him," replies Sinner, a traffic investigator.
When Sinner sees a crime in Killeen on his way home, he feels obligated to act, but does not have legal authority.
"You go by and you've got somebody beating his wife in the car, we can't do anything," said Sinner in early January.
Sinner has also requested more privileges for civilian police in Texas while secretary of the West Bell County Fraternal Order of Police.
Though official figures have not been released, added privileges would cost millions of dollars, if not more, for the government.
The government left certain law enforcement under government non-police compensation packages to save money, said Beth Moten in December. Moten lobbies for government employees with the American Federation of Government Employees.
A change would pay civilian police more than their current government level, which is equivalent to a clerk, Kuczenski said.
Civilian police would receive a 20-year retirement pension similar to most federal and local law enforcement.
The recognition is long overdue, Kuczenski said.
"The only way we are recognized as police officers is if one of us gets killed in the line of duty. We get put on a wall in Washington," Kuczenski said.
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.
Three bills in Congress
HR 3752 Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Improvements of 2009
A) Redefines "law enforcement" to include the Department of Defense civilian police.
B) Gives the right to carry a concealed weapon off-duty to current civilian officers and those who left departments in good standing after 10 years.
C) Allows current and former officers in good standing to carry firearms in a school zone.
Introduced by Rep. James Forbes (R-Va), Oct. 7, 2009.
Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Oct. 19, 2009.
A) Provides DOD law enforcement with ability to carry firearms and serve warrants.
B) Allows DOD law enforcement to make an arrest without a warrant concerning a crime they witness or have probable cause to believe was committed.
Introduced by Rep. Bob Filner, (D-Ca), Jan. 26, 2009.
Referred to subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, May 4, 2009.
HR 673 Law Enforcement Officers Equity Act
A) Redefines "law enforcement" to include Department of Defense civilian police and other law enforcement who are allowed to carry a firearm and investigate or apprehend criminals.
B) Gives officers the ability to be part of the federal retirement program for law enforcement.
Introduced by Rep. Bob Filner, (D-CA), Jan. 26, 2009.
Referred to subcommittee on Federal Workforce of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, May 4, 2009.