United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police is the uniformed law enforcement service of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, responsible for the protection of the VA Medical Centers (VAMC) and other facilities such as Outpatient Clinics (OPC) and Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) operated by United States Department of Veterans Affairs and its subsidiary components of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) as well as the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) respectively. The VA Police have several divisions and operate separately but alongside the VA Law Enforcement Training Center (VA LETC) under the umbrella of the Office of Security and Law Enforcement. The primary role of VA Police is to serve as a protective uniformed police force in order 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. Some cases are investigated in conjunction with agents from the Office of the Inspector General (VA OIG).

United States Department of Veterans Affairs Police (Service)
Patch of the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Police
Seal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Badge of the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Police
Flag of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Common nameV
Motto"Protecting those who served"
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • VA Protective Service (1930)
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
United States
Operations jurisdictionUnited States
Legal jurisdictionAll properties owned, leased or occupied by the Department of Veterans Affairs and not under the control of the General Services Administration
General nature
HeadquartersWashington, D.C.
Agency executive
  • Frederick Jackson, Director
Parent agencyUnited States Department of Veterans Affairs

The Office of Security and Law Enforcement (OS&LE) is the parent agency of the VA Police within the Law Enforcement Oversight & Criminal Investigation Division (LEO/CID) which provides national oversight to individual VA Police Services at each location throughout the United States. They also facilitate support, guidance, funds and regulation of the Police Service and their corresponding independent facilities. Upper level management and specialty positions other than Police Officer include (in no particular order); Detective and Special Agent (1811 Series Criminal Investigator). Other semi standardized rank structures are developed within each VA Police Service at the local level. These serve to reflect job title, function, and/or role and range from Sergeant to Chief. The VA Police also maintain groups of specialty service elements such as K-9, bicycle, boat and motorcycle patrols.

The VA Police are an armed, federal law enforcement and protective service entity that operates in and around the various Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, National Cemeteries and other VA facilities located throughout the whole of United States to include Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Among others, the VA Police are a specialized federal law enforcement agency, whose officers have full police powers derived from statutory authority to enforce all federal laws, VA rules and regulations, and to make arrests on VA controlled property whether owned or leased.


VA Police encounters and methods of law enforcement are often unique because the majority of their work is conducted in and around a clinical or medical setting. Enhanced methodology and incident solutions (including advanced interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, and problem solving skills) are required by their officers to be successful; as in addition to the full range of incidents and calls for service one might normally associate with police work, the VA Police also often encounter trained military veterans suffering from medical and psychological traumas. Beyond normal law enforcement contact with the general public, VA Police officers also work in an environment which includes an extremely high percentage of individuals (to include patients and even other VA employees) who are military trained veterans (with an increasingly large number of individuals who are returning combat veterans). VA Police officers must strive to enforce the law while working with other VA staff to maintain an equitable balance; ensuring that the medical needs of the veterans/patients are being met while at the same time continuing to operate as a full federal law enforcement agency.

Although the Office of Security and Law Enforcement exists and policies and training are standardized, VA Police operate throughout the United States under the direction of individual facility directors (much like a municipal agency would function under a mayor), causing an extensive amount of difference in operational format. VA Police personnel serving in the Executive Protection Division provide Protective Services for the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Veterans Affairs Police (Service) is made up of over 4000 appointed officers and administrative personnel. The agency's motto is "Protecting Those Who Served".


The roots of today's VA police force began at the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (VHA origins) which was authorized as a national soldiers and sailors asylum by President Lincoln on March 3, 1865.

A court martial system was established at the National Homes in September 1867 to consider all cases of offenses made by residents of the Home. Judgment and sentencing were determined by the Governor of each National Home and a Sergeant of Police—a "member" of the Home—was appointed and paid $15 per month. By comparison, the home's chief baker was paid $20 monthly and nurses (male in those days) received $8. A guard house (jail) was located at each National Home branch to protect home "members" from themselves or others.

The first official police force was authorized at the National Home in Dayton at the April 11, 1882 Board of Managers meeting in order to preserve "the peace and quiet of the branch." The force consisted of a Captain, one 1st Lieutenant, and one 2nd Lieutenant. They were referred to as "guards" and the force eventually expanded to over 40 guards. The Homes operated under military rules, which often did not suit many of the former farmers and young immigrant residents who lived there. Drunkenness, fighting, violation of passes, profanity, disorderly conduct, and creating a nuisance were the most common offenses. Proceedings of the Home "court" were recorded in Discipline Books.

The most serious offense, in those early days, was bringing liquor onto the Home grounds, followed by going "AWOL" (absent without leave) and "jumping the fence" (defiantly leaving grounds without permission). By the 1880s, all of the National Homes operated beer halls in an effort to control the quality and quantity of alcohol consumed by veterans and to confine the ill effects of drunkenness to the Home grounds. Saloons cropped up in close proximity to all of the National Homes and were a constant temptation for many home residents. At Dayton there were 3,446 discipline charges recorded in 1888 including 1,192 for drunkenness and 1,138 for being AWOL. Members who misbehaved while AWOL were subject to civilian law and often arrested by civilian police and detained in community jails.

Punishment for minor offenses at the National Homes included monetary fines and no passes for 30 days. For more serious crimes, veterans were often assigned to "dump duty." In the 19th century, "dump duty" meant emptying and cleaning cuspidors, bedpans, and picking up trash from the grounds. The most severe penalty inflicted was stone breaking—which was ordered for men who brought whiskey onto the grounds, "jumped the fenced," or willfully disobeyed orders. Stone breaking began at 7 o'clock in the morning. A man was escorted from the guard house to his work pile and back until his sentence was completed. He got one hour and 20 minutes for lunch and his day ended at 5:40. A stone breaking sentence could last for up to six months. Repeat incorrigible offenders were dishonorably discharged from the Home.

The National Homes became part of the Veterans Administration in 1930 and the Home police forces were retained; however, their adjudication system and old guardhouses (jails) soon became obsolete. Having no official police power at that time, guards checked entrants into VA properties, ensured safety of everyone on the grounds, and handed criminal offenders over to state or local police officers for processing in civilian courts or to the Department of Investigation (FBI after 1936) for federal crimes. The Veterans Administration police operated in this manner for over 40 years.

After 1970, violent criminal offenses increased on VA grounds and change was imminent for its police force. Guards were elevated to full police status and their training and responsibilities increased. VA police were provided with a weapon: mace. Afterwards, police batons were added and a VA Police training center was established in North Little Rock, Arkansas, to standardize their training. During the 1980s, a number of incidents took the lives of four unarmed VA police officers and several other VA personnel, resulting in further changes. Training requirements and program oversight again increased. In 1989, after the Veterans Administration became the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Police and Security Service reorganized as the Office of Security and Law Enforcement. Required training hours for VA police increased from 40 hours in the 1970s to 160 hours by 1992.

In 1992, VA considered arming its police force for the time. Three years later, Secretary Jesse Brown directed development of a pilot program to arm VA police at no more than six facilities. The following year, a directive and handbook were written. The Firearm Training Unit of the FBI Academy reviewed VA's firearm training plans and determined that it met or exceeded Federal law enforcement requirements. In September 1996, North Chicago VA Medical Center became the first facility to arm its police officers, followed by Richmond, Bronx, West Los Angeles, and Chicago (West Side). The pilot program proved successful, so around 1998, Secretary Togo West expanded the arming of VA police at a rate of about 16 sites per year.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the arming program was accelerated. VA contracted with Beretta USA for specially designed pistols and firearms training for its police force. By fall 2002, 92 VA medical centers had 1,830 armed police officers and in 2003 the entire force was armed. In 2002, Jose Rodiguez-Reyes, an officer at the San Juan VAMC in Puerto Rico, was the first policeman to be killed after the VA Police force became armed. Since 1985, at least seven officers have lost their lives while on duty.

Today's VA Police officers face innumerable challenges when compared to the guard force of the past. They are vigilant, armed, professional law enforcement officers with a minimum of 400 training hours who have powers to enforce all federal laws. They are trained to prevent crime, defuse a variety of threats, and take action when needed. Their skills include accident investigation, surveillance, fraud detection, preventing or defusing violence in the workplace, fingerprinting, detective and crime scene investigation, and much more. Many of them have college degrees and backgrounds as military or civilian police officers. All must meet the standards set by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for federal police officers and investigators and must pass background, physical, and mental examinations. Not only are they on the alert for domestic or workplace violations, they watch for terrorist activity, as well. VA police officers work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ensure enforcement of all federal laws and the safety of veterans, employees, contractors, visitors, and the public. Many of VA's Police force work behind the scenes as trainers, investigators, analysts, policymakers, developers of standards and practices, and more, to protect VA employees, veterans, property, and the public. The VA Law Enforcement Training Center in North Little Rock Arkansas now provides professional police training to other federal agencies, not just to VA's own police force.


Statutory Authority

38 U.S.C. § 902 : US Code - Section 902: Enforcement and arrest authority of Department police officers


(a)(1) Employees of the Department who are Department police officers shall, with respect to acts occurring on Department property—

(A) enforce Federal laws;

(B) enforce the rules prescribed under section 901 of this title;

(C) enforce traffic and motor vehicle laws of a State or local government (by issuance of a citation for violation of such laws) within the jurisdiction of which such Department property is located as authorized by an express grant of authority under applicable State or local law;

(D) carry the appropriate Department-issued weapons, including firearms, while off Department property in an official capacity or while in an official travel status;

(E) conduct investigations, on and off Department property, of offenses that may have been committed on property under the original jurisdiction of Department, consistent with agreements or other consultation with affected Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies; and

(F) carry out, as needed and appropriate, the duties described in subparagraphs (A) through (E) when engaged in duties authorized by other Federal statutes. (2) Subject to regulations prescribed under subsection (b), a Department police officer may make arrests on Department property for a violation of a Federal law or any rule prescribed under section 901 (a) of this title, and on any arrest warrant issued by competent judicial authority.

(b) The Secretary shall prescribe regulations with respect to Department police officers. Such regulations shall include—

(1) policies with respect to the exercise by Department police officers of the enforcement and arrest authorities provided by this section;

(2) the scope and duration of training that is required for Department police officers, with particular emphasis on dealing with situations involving patients; and

(3) rules limiting the carrying and use of weapons by Department police officers.

(c) The powers granted to Department police officers designated under this section shall be exercised in accordance with guidelines approved by the Secretary and the Attorney General.

Expanded authority signed into law on May 5, 2010 by the President Of The United States (becoming Public Law No: 111-163).


Line-of-duty deaths

Eight officers of the VA Police died in the line of duty:[3]

  • Marvin C. Bland, age 34, was killed in an automobile accident on September 6, 1985, while responding to a fire alarm at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts.
  • Mark S. Decker, age 31, and Leonard B. Wilcox, age 37, were shot and killed on January 31, 1986, while attempting to question a suspicious man at the Brecksville VA Hospital in Brecksville, Ohio. Both Decker and Wilcox were armed only with mace due to administrative guidelines. While the officers were talking with the man he pulled out a .45 caliber handgun and shot Officer Decker, killing him instantly. Officer Wilcox attempted to run for cover, but the suspect chased him before shooting him as well. The killer was sentenced to two life terms for the murders.
  • Ronald Hearn, age 49, was shot and killed on July 25, 1988 at the Bronx VA Hospital in New York City. The alarm was set off when a man walked through the metal detector; when Hearn approached the man, he pulled out a gun and shot Hearn, who was wearing a vest but was shot between the two panels. At the time of Hearn's death VA Police were not supplied vests or firearms.
  • Garry A. Ross, age 41, died from a heart attack on December 24, 1990 at the VA Medical Center in Washington, D.C.. Ross died after responding to a call of a mentally deranged patient, who assaulted him several times. Ross suffered a massive heart attack after he restrained the patient.
  • Horst Harold Woods, age 46, was shot and killed on January 10, 1996, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Woods had approached a man kneeling beside his patrol car; when Woods approached him from the opposite side of the car, the man stood up, exchanged words with Woods, and then shot him in the back of his head as Woods turned away. The man was arrested later the same day. The suspect was arrested a short time later by Air Force Security Police Law Enforcement Officers, now called Security Forces from Kirtland Air Force Base, where he was found with "two extra fully loaded magazines, an 18-inch bowie knife and a long-barreled Derringer loaded with two shotgun shells."
  • Jose Oscar Rodriguez-Reyes, age 53, was shot and killed on April 24, 2002 while stationed at a gate at the VA Medical Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Rodriguez-Reyes was attacked by two men for unknown reasons and shot in the head and chest. The two attempted to steal Rodriguez-Reyes' service weapon but were unable to remove it from the holster. Rodriguez-Reyes was the first armed VA Police officer to be killed in the line of duty. Two suspects were arrested by the FBI. Charged with murder, the suspect who shot Rodriguez-Reyes was convicted in July 2006.
  • Police Officer Ronald Leisure, age 66, suffered a fatal heart attack while conducting a foot patrol of the VA Medical Center in Livermore, California, on 14 November 2014. He was conducting checks of the large complex when he suddenly collapsed. Medical staff immediately initiated lifesaving measures but were unable to resuscitate him.


The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police currently have entry qualifications comparable to other Law enforcement in the United States. All VA Police Officers are required to have either one year of 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 [[background investigation].

Upon selection, VA Police Officers go through a ten-week basic training course (academy) at the VA Law Enforcement Training Center (LETC) located on Fort Logan H. Roots in Little Rock, Arkansas alongside the Eugene J. Towbin Veterans Medical Center. Additionally, VA Police Officers receive continuous in-service and specialized training (Written, Practical, and Scenario based) to include intermediate weapons, tactical and low light firearms, contact and arrest procedures on a regular basis. Officers may also partake in a series of advanced training courses offered by VA LETC on a selective basis to include crime scene investigations, traffic accident investigations, and technical surveillance.

VA Police Officers are certified in CPR (as first responders), the use of Oleoresin Capsicum Pepper spray, the MEB Manadnock Expandable Police Baton, and the Beretta 92D 9mm sidearm or the SIG Sauer P229 DAK Version (Uniformed Officers) and SIG Sauer P239 DAK Version (Plain clothed Officials/Investigators) chambered in 9×19mm. In 2017, AR-15 rifles manufactured by Windham Arms were authorized and began deployment to the field. The AR-15s are chambered for 5.56mm ammunition and have 11.5" barrels. Measures of additional standards and training were undertaken and implemented by the whole VA LETC academy in order to successfully achieve FLETA accreditation, which was officially granted on November 17, 2011. This accreditation placed the academy (and selected courses) on par with other well known federal law enforcement training centers and programs such as Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Training, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), and the U.S. Secret Service James J. Rowley Training Center. The Department of Veterans Affairs Law Enforcement Training Center (LETC) often serves as a training program that is capable of meeting the training requirements for DoD Officers and their respective installations. The Department of the Air Force routinely sends their civilian Police Officers to the VA LETC in an effort to meet or exceed their requirements for base security and law and order operations.

Legislation to expand the powers and authority of the Veterans Affairs Police was eventually rolled into the S.1963 - Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 Bill (proposed law) and was re-introduced in the 111th Congress on Oct 28, 2009. The Bill passed the United States Senate on Nov 19, 2009, passed the United States House of Representatives on Apr 21, 2010, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on May 5, 2010 becoming Public Law No: 111-163. The GPO (Government Publishing Office) has officially published this law in its roles, noting that the law (and therefore the increased uniform allowance and expanded authority of the VA Police to include the ability to conduct investigations, on and off Department property, took legal effect on January 7, 2011.

The Veterans Affairs Police Officers do not receive FERS Federal Law Enforcement/Firefighter Special Retirement benefits unlike their VA Fire Service counterparts.

Department of Veterans Affairs Police Ranks & Insignia (Rank Structure & Position Varies by Location)

Rank & Title Pay Grade (General Schedule) Description Position Insignia
Chief of Police 12/13/14 Grade dependent on size of Service Chief of Service. Responsible for the entirety of the Police Service.
Deputy Chief of Police 11/12/13 Typically one grade below the Chief of Police Deputy Chief of Service. Charged with assisting the Chief of Police in running the entirety of the Police Service.
Major 09/10/11 Three or more grades above the journeyman level Supervisory Police Officer or Supervisory Security Specialist. This position is equivalent in grade to a Captain. However, this rank is awarded to those officers specifically charged with overseeing patrol operations.
Captain 09/10/11 Three or more grades above the journeyman level Supervisory Police Officer or Supervisory Security Specialist. Usually commands a section or division within the Service, such as Physical Security, Administration, Investigations, Communications etc.
Lieutenant 08/09 Two grades above the journeyman level Supervisory Police Officers (Watch Commanders). Supervises a shift (or multiple shifts) of Police and Security personnel, including Police Officers, Sergeants, and Security Assistants (Dispatchers).
Sergeant 07/08 One Grade above journeyman level Lead Police Officers (Watch Leaders). Assists the Watch Commander in running a shift of Police Officers and Security Assistants (Dispatchers). First line leaders within the Service.
Detective 07/08 one to two grade above journeyman level Detectives are police investigators charged with investigating those crimes that do not fall under the purview of the VA Inspector General's Office (OIG).-
Corporal 06/07 Same grade as journeyman level. This rank is authorized at the local level. It is the same grade as a journeyman level police officer. Generally, this rank is awarded to those officers who hold a special certification or responsibility.
Police Officer 06 Journeyman level Charged with performing a wide array of policing duties with the jurisdiction of VA.

See also


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