The VA Police are an armed enforcement and protective service unit that operates in and around the various Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, National Cemeteries and other VA facilities located throughout the United States including Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. They are a specialized federal law enforcement agency, whose officers have full police powers to enforce all federal laws, VA rules and regulations, and to make arrests on VA controlled property whether owned or leased.
The primary role of VA Police is to serve as a protective uniformed police force to deter and prevent crime, maintain order, and investigate crimes (ranging from summary to felony offenses) which may have occurred within the jurisdiction of the Department or its federal assets.
Before 1971, civilian security guards were charged with protecting VA Boston’s Medical Facilities.
The guard hiring process consisted of a background screening and a minimal requirement of formal training. As the overall level of criminal activity began to increase nationwide the Veteran Administration, as it was named then, recognized the need for a more trained, professional and responsive force. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Law Enforcement Training Center (LETC) was established in 1971 to train officers uniquely qualified to the new VA standards. Unaccredited at first, the Department of Justice later approved the course due to the intense training requirements that met the needs of policing a health care facility.
Veterans Affairs Police currently have entry qualifications comparable to other law enforcement agencies in the United States. All VA Police Officers are required to have either a minimum of two years’ experience in law enforcement with arrest authority (in federal, state, municipal, or military police), or have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Applicants must also undergo a physical abilities test, fingerprinting, physical examination, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) psychological evaluation and a background investigation.
Upon selection, officers go through a supplementary eight-week training course at LETC located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Additionally, VA Police Officers receive continuous in-service and specialized training (written, practical, and scenario based) including intermediate weapons, tactical and low light firearms, and contact and arrest procedures. Officers may also partake in a series of advanced training courses offered by LETC on a selective basis that includes crime scene investigations, traffic accident investigations, and technical surveillance.
Throughout the years, the Department of Veteran Affairs has expanded its program to ensure that officers are well prepared to provide a safe and secure environment for all Veterans, employees and visitors at our facilities. Today’s VA police officers are well equipped to handle all law enforcement functions. “VA Boston Police Service has seen a daily progression of professional services being made available to our patients and staff at all campuses.” said Officer Zach Pearlstein, West Roxbury.
VA BHS’s police officers have the unique advantage of developing long-standing relationships among Veterans who return to our facilities for continuing care. “I’m a Veteran and I take a lot of satisfaction in assisting other Veterans who have some of the same beliefs in serving their country as I did.” says Officer Patrick Rogers, West Roxbury. Many VA police officers are Veterans themselves and are able to relate to certain conditions and situations with a degree of insight that others may not have.
“As a fellow Veteran, it’s nice to engage the patients with similar stories and of course share many laughs that make the job all that more rewarding,” said Officer Keith Lazaron, Brockton.
The Police at VA Boston hold themselves to a higher standard resulting in a Highly Satisfactory rating in 2010. The same rating is anticipated for their recent inspection completed in August 2012. “Ratings such as these speak to the tremendous work each and every one of the police staff accomplishes each day across all VA Boston locations.” said Chief of Police Chad Sartini.