Arnold Police earn POST certification, first in center history

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  • By 180210
For the first time in its almost 60-year history, Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) police officers will be recognized under Tennessee Code Annotated as a legal entity for Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification.

In a ceremony earlier today led by former police chief Joe Kirk, close to 80 percent of the base's officers took the police oath and are now certified, with the expectation that the remaining 20 percent will be certified within the year.

"POST certification for the Arnold AFB police is certainly a milestone in the continued professional advancement of the unit," Kirk said. "Thanks to Chief [Rick] Trull and his staff's continuing efforts POST certification has become a reality for the Arnold police organization."

AEDC Vice Commander Col. Eugene Mittuch said at the ceremony, "The certification is a big deal; it requires commitment out of your personal time away from your families and allows for a professional police force and not just a security force."

Air Force Security Chief Bob Stanze said this is truly a great day for ATA Police, AEDC and the United States Air Force.

"Achieving POST certification carries with it significant recognition, credibility and professional status within the State of Tennessee Law Enforcement community and has been a vision here at AEDC for more than 20 years," Stanze said. "To have a 'dual' Air Force and state certified cadre of law enforcement officers is like having the 'best of both worlds.'"

According to Chief Trull, the certification means Arnold can now certify their own officers as well as continue to perform mutual aid and other local services. The officers also go through the same training, have the same degree of knowledge and depth of understanding as all the local departments do.

"POST certification does a lot of things for us," Chief Trull said. "First of all, it gives us recognition in the state as law enforcement officers, but more importantly than that, it lends a lot of credibility to the things that we do.

"When we go to court for an issuance of a state citation or we go to court because we arrested someone for a DUI or any of those things that bring us to court - being POST recognized is the standard that the court expects. Through the years, we've been able to cover that by taking our Air Force certification."

Noticing some of the challenges when faced in court of authority and not being state certified, Chief Trull realized the importance of what his Air Force counterpart was asking for. He knew legislation had to change and be passed so he contacted his local state representative Judd Matheny.

"Through history, different groups of law enforcement have been through the legislative process such as deputizing sheriffs and so municipalities like cities," Chief Trull said. "There is a provision in the code now for situations kind of like us, but it didn't address a government installation."

Tullahoma Chief of Police Paul Blackwell said this certification doesn't change the already good relationship, but only enhances it.

"The POST certification raises the capability of the AEDC police force," he said. "The greatest benefit will be the joint training and being able to enhance that capability."

The process began about a year-and-a-half ago which is necessary in a case like this to allow for lead time in order to get on the proper agendas and to fully comply with the legislative rules of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Rep. Judd Matheny, who has a law enforcement background himself, chose to take on the challenge because of his respect for the leadership at AEDC and the officers of Arnold AFB.

"I believe Arnold AFB police set the standard for professionalism and esprit de corps, and it is easy to help someone that is so enthusiastic about their professionalism and integrity," Rep. Matheny said.

"The process went relatively smoothly, but of course there are always challenges."
Rep. Matheny said some education of the members of the Tennessee General Assembly was necessary on the unique mission of Arnold police.

"Once the majority of the legislators understood why we wanted the POST certification and what it would mean for the public safety and accountability, they were eager to help."

Chief Kirk served as police chief from 1982 until he retired in 2001and has never been more proud of a police organization as he is of the Arnold force.

"Dave Gardenhire and I approached the subject several years ago, however the timing wasn't right considering the state law governing police certification and the prevailing assumptions concerning units such as the Arnold Police force at that time," he said.

"I have seen it evolve from basically a 'security guard' unit with limited standards, training and practically no police equipment to a well trained, equipped and highly professional force. I am very proud to have been a member of the Arnold AFB police force."