Marines, local law enforcement team up for safety

2 Dec 2003 | Lance Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr.

The Provost Marshal's Office here is teaming up with local law enforcement to drive home base safety efforts in the communities surrounding the base.

Lieutenant Col. David H. Matthews, provost marshal here, said noncommissioned and staff noncommissioned officers from PMO will be riding along with civilian law enforcement during long weekends and extended liberty periods.

The Saint Petersburg, Fla., native said the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is currently the only agency participating, but other law enforcement agencies may join the program in the near future.

The program was suggested by the North Carolina Highway Patrol, and relayed to Headquarters Marine Corps for approval. It was then implemented during the Labor Day weekend.

"This isn't a new thing (to the Marine Corps)," said Matthews. "It's similar to what they use in Okinawa and Hawaii. (The ride along program) was around here in the 70's and 80's.  We just brought it back."

Staff Sgt. Donald Albers, chief crash investigator aboard Camp Lejeune, has been supervising the off-base ride-along military policemen and riding along himself.

"All we do is report any violations to the Marine's command," he said.

The MPs do not have any special authority out in town, but can help deal with safety as well as ensuring Marines are obeying laws and regulations.

"They're all (at least) NCOs, so if you are out of regulation or messed up, they might square you away," he said.

The Marines they have interacted with so far have all been very receptive and understand they are Marines, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether or not they are wearing a uniform at the time, he added.

The MPs sit in the car until the civilian authorities identify the driver as a Marine. They then motion for the MP to approach the vehicle and question the Marine. A minor offense report is filled out, which is provided to the Marine in addition to a copy being forwarded their command's first sergeant, Albers said.

"The Marine's command decides what to do after that," the Bernardsville, N.J., native added. Punishments from an individual's command can range from verbal reprimand to non-judicial punishments.

"We are not enforcing civilian laws," Matthews said. "We are just letting the command know what's happening with their Marines."

The new program, along with other recently introduced programs, such as "click it or park it," the heavy enforcement of the speed limit at the main gate, and the regulations regarding cell phone use while driving aboard the base, are all put in place for the safety of the Marines.

Brigadier Gen. Robert C. Dickerson, commanding general, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, rode with military policemen on base to assess the driving safety measures Marines and sailors violate. During the ride-along, Dickerson participated with the MPs pulling over speeders. He also spoke to various MPs, asking what they thought of the safety programs.

"We are taking action before Marines kill themselves on the road," said Matthews. "The goal of the program is to get speeding under control. We lost about 20 Marines so far this year to motorcycle and privately owned vehicle accidents," he said.

Matthews said the MPs have done the ride-alongs for two extended liberty periods so far, and the program seems to be success.

"We issued about 20 MORs during the two (weekends)," Albers said. They were mostly for speeding or reckless driving; none of them were for alcohol related incidences.

"We are usually out early in the morning, around the start of liberty." He said the seven NCOs participating have been spread around Onslow County, not just in Jacksonville.

The highway patrol has been very receptive of the military police, he added. "The majority of violations they deal with locally are Marines, and this lets (law enforcement agencies) know something is being done (by the) base to help fix this problem."

Matthews said this program is not designed to harass individuals, but to deal with situations on the spot and provide commanders information quickly.

"The intent is to get the information about these off-base driving problems to the commanders as soon as possible. We are not harassing the Marines, and we are not trying to overstep the bounds of our authority. We just want to get the information to the commanders prior to Marines killing themselves while they're driving."

"This program really enhances our ability to support the [II Marine Expeditionary Force] commander and the other commanders in keeping their Marines alive," he said, adding this doesn't change the mission of PMO.

"We need to let Marines know they will be held accountable for their actions. A lot of Marines are pedal to the metal when they get off base. Not anymore. You'll get there eventually, what's five extra minutes to get there safe?" Albers said.

He added, "Getting there is one piece, is better then not getting there at all."