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Pentagon, Arlington to Unite on Policing

July 02, 2002
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Pentagon, Arlington to Unite on Policing

Forces to Watch Each Other's Territory

By Patricia Davis, The Washington Post

The Pentagon is in Arlington, but county police officers have no authority to take action if they see potential terrorists or other criminals lurking anywhere on the sprawling federal property.

Likewise, officers with the Pentagon's police force -- the Defense Protective Service -- are legally handcuffed from stopping suspicious people or making arrests on the tangle of state and county roads and land parcels that surround the Defense Department headquarters.

That is about to change. Arlington and Pentagon police are entering into a historic agreement that will give them the legal authority to cross into each other's territory to enforce state and federal laws.

The memorandum of agreement is among the first tangible changes in procedure among the region's myriad law enforcement agencies since the Sept. 11 hijackings.

Officials had tried to hammer out a similar mutual-aid agreement between the two law enforcement agencies for more than a decade, but the terrorist attack on the Pentagon sealed the deal.

"This is analogous to a treaty," Arlington Police Chief Edward A. Flynn said. "It's a common-sense, practical approach to collaborative law enforcement."

"We look at it as a way of mutually helping one another," Pentagon Police Chief John Jester said. "We are a large terrorist target. We're always glad to get extra eyes around us."

The agreement, expected to be signed soon by Flynn and Jester, details why the change is necessary.

"By virtue of their respective law enforcement and security responsibilities, both [agencies] have an interest in the protection of persons and property on and about the Pentagon Reservation," the agreement states. "Because the Reservation is located in Arlington County, events on the Reservation can have a direct impact on Arlington and its residents. Events occurring on property dissecting, or just outside, the Reservation, on the other hand, can have a direct impact on the security and operations of the Defense Department."

In the future, any county officer making an arrest on federal property will be provided with support, including fingerprinting, photographing and detention. The officer will stay with the case, and it will be prosecuted in federal court. Pentagon police officers will be afforded the same help, with their suspects appearing in state court.

After American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, "our people were immediately on the ground," Flynn said. However, because there was no written agreement, the two forces' roles were worked out at the scene. "There shouldn't be any lag time," Flynn said. The Arlington Fire Department needs no such agreement. It also is the Pentagon's fire department and was therefore in charge of the fire and rescue operation after the terrorist attack.

The agreement is part of a growing trend toward more cooperation among state, federal and local jurisdictions in the Washington region that began even before Sept. 11. There is now a raft of regional law enforcement task forces, including those that target terrorism, drug trafficking, gangs, auto theft and outstanding felony warrants.

For example, had protesters tried to block the bridges leading from Virginia into the District during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings two years ago, they would have been met by a formidable force: Arlington police.

For the first time, D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey had invoked a mutual-aid agreement, marking an important change in relations between suburban and D.C. police, officials said. As a result, Arlington police officers with riot gear were posted at strategic locations on and near the bridges.

Flynn said his officers will help U.S. Park Police on July 4, patrolling the George Washington Memorial Parkway and other areas to allow the federal agency to concentrate on the Mall.

"I'm seeing a lot more cooperation among localities," Flynn said. "In many ways, local law enforcement is demonstrating models of collaboration that the feds could learn from. And we're doing it without creating new departments or reorganizing each other's agencies."

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