South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

‘First of its kind’ civilian police force takes over at Jefferson Barracks base

Those on civilian force don’t need a military background
Officers with the 131st Security Forces Squadron and members of Mehlville Fire Protection District wait for mock victims to be extracted from a building during a simulated active shooter event, Jefferson Barracks Air National Guard Base, Mo., Aug. 11, 2023. The two organizations worked together over multiple days to train and test their capabilities. Photo by U.S. Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Mundwiller.

There’s a new sheriff in town at the Jefferson Barracks Air National Guard Base after it got its own police force, the first of its kind for an Air National Guard base.

One of the unique aspects of the 131st Security Forces Squadron is that it’s all-civilian, with no prior military service required.

The base previously used contracted security, but growth at the Jefferson Barracks base warranted a more permanent force, which officially took over in November 2022.

“Whenever they decided to bring police, it was because we were having some crime on the installation and in order to protect national security, they wanted to bring a police force in versus having security,” Police Chief Mark Delcambre told The Call.

The base used to have its own security forces in 2013 which was a military police unit, but one of the issues with a unit like that is there is a deployment mission, according to Deputy Chief Nick Arnold.

“Over the years they’ve gotten away from the traditional security forces here — military police. Once they had issues started popping back up again, they went ‘ok, we need a little bit more security of our assets (at Jefferson Barracks),’” Arnold said. “They didn’t want to take on that deployment mission so that’s when they looked into just the civilians here … That’s what makes us a little unique.”

Civilians, including those without any military background, can apply, so long as they meet certain background criteria to work on a military base.

Once they are hired, new hires complete training at a federal law enforcement police academy, which is mandatory for all Jefferson Barracks personnel.

Another thing that makes the Jefferson Barracks force different is that they can hire from 18 years old.

“Traditionally, when younger folks think of going the military police route, any type of police with the military, they’re going to associate a deployment mission there,” Arnold said. “That’s why we are kind of unique, so folks who kind of want to get into the government system, see what it’s all about and kind of get that experience, this is a great place to start.”

The force works with other local jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies as well, such as Mehlville Fire, which is the base’s primary fire response. The force has done active shooter drills with MFPD, with plans to do more exercises in the future. The St. Louis County Police Department has been included in some of that training as well.

“We’re trying to take baby steps and hit the most important aspects first,” Delcambre said.

Delcambre is a a U.S. Air Force veteran who spent 23 years in Air Force security forces, while Arnold has a background both in the U.S. Air Force security forces and Army Reserves, as well traditional law enforcement after working for police departments in Illinois.

One aspect they appreciate about the civilian force compared to a more traditional agency is the “family atmosphere.”

“I think the chief has done a great job of creating a family atmosphere here. We have a really good solid core group of folks right now and I think that’s one thing they appreciate the most,” Arnold said.

Additionally, the force operates more “protection-minded” rather than responding to calls.

“We worry more about keeping things safe and secure than we do responding to calls. We don’t have the call volume here that you would in a normal civilian agency,” Arnold said. “I came from a very high-tempo department where we were running calls all shift. So that was a big eye-opener to me, to see the call volume different.”

Delcambre said part of what interested him in the force was the opportunity to stay in law enforcement while not necessarily dealing with some of what traditional law enforcement positions entail.

“This is one of the safer police jobs that is available to anyone. If you want stay in the law enforcement career field and continue to do that job, being confined to a base, protecting resources and still responding to calls, this is the best option,” Delcambre said.

Arnold added that in some ways it is the base is “essentially a gated community.”

“We control what goes on inside our community,” he said.