The Bayonet

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012

Law enforcement agencies keep in communication

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Fort Benning Military Police, the Lee County sheriff’s department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office — those are just a few of the member organizations of the Chattahoochee Valley Law Enforcement Coalition.

Made up of about 30 federal, state, local and civilian law enforcement and security organizations, the coalition’s purpose is to allow members to communicate and collaborate — ultimately for the preservation of public safety, said Art Sheldon, coalition president and a Columbus policeman.

Sheldon was re-elected to his second term as president at Wednesday’s meeting, hosted by the Benning CID Battalion at the National Infantry Museum. The coalition meets monthly, with officer elections held annually in November.

From Fort Benning, personnel with CID, the Directorate of Emergency Services and military police regularly attend, occasionally joined by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on post. Other members include regional police and sheriff’s offices, the Georgia State Patrol, the Columbus State University Police and security personnel from local corporations such as Aflac and Total Systems. Almost half of the civilians who attend are veterans, Sheldon said.

“It gives you a chance to talk to these people that normally you wouldn’t get to meet,” he said. “Say I need to speak to somebody from the FBI or I need to speak to somebody from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Secret Service, DEA — any of these organizations — we have someone we can call directly and someone we know like a friend. I can pick up the phone and call the airport police. I know who the chief is up there personally. If I had something going on at the airport, I wouldn’t have to try to figure out who the people are, and that’s what makes the group work so good.”

Sheldon said they often arrange for speakers to share about a relevant topic or invite vendors to come in and talk about technological advancements specific to the field.

Founded in the mid-1980s, the coalition is open to any law enforcement organization. CID joined in 2005.

“CID works investigations with all of the local agencies,” said Special Agent Kendra Bannach, “with the FBI, Columbus, Phenix City. We work collaboratively with them all the time. If we can come together like this, then we’re going to have a better working relationship, and we’re going to get better response from the local agencies if we need assistance from them.”

Bannach said the meetings can also be a good avenue for sharing intelligence on crime-related behavior in the area. The battalion is in charge of investigating all felony offenses that occur on the installation, but when it comes to specific crimes — such as counterfeit money, which would be turned over to the Secret Service — it helps to have a relationship with outside agencies.

“I think it’s just Fort Benning doing its part in making the community better,” she said. “We have a huge, diverse law enforcement population. There are so many entities. This is just a great way for us to get all of the agencies together in one room and bond, build our relationships.”

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