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NEWS | Jan. 21, 2015

JBSA civilian police officers now wearing insignias to display rank

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

Department of the Air Force civilian police officers attired in dark blue uniforms are a common sight at Joint Base San Antonio locations, but some are now wearing oak leaf, bar and chevron insignia that distinguish them by their rank and are comparable with the rank insignia of their  military counterparts.

Last month, in compliance with a decision by Headquarters Air Force, Department of the Air Force civilian police and guards at JBSA started wearing commensurate military-type rank based on their general schedule pay grade.

Insignia are worn by civilian police officers at the GS-7 level and above, while entry-level officers at the GS-5 and GS-6 levels, who make up the majority of the JBSA civilian police force, continue to wear no insignia. JBSA's law enforcement component under the leadership of the 502nd Security Forces and Logistics Support Group comprises the 502nd Security Forces Squadron at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, the 802nd SFS at JBSA-Lackland and the 902nd SFS at JBSA-Randolph.

Bryan Gillespie, 502nd SFS director, said the Air Force implemented commensurate rank for several reasons.

"As in the military, visual rank systems aid in establishing an immediate chain of command that is vital in emergency operations and also aids efficient operations of the unit," he said. "Also, as a common practice, police departments have used rank insignia since the 1800s, so inclusion of rank within the Department of Air Force police follows tradition."

Civilians at the GS-7 and GS-8 levels, designated as corporals and sergeants, respectively, wear chevron insignia, while those at the GS-9, GS-10 and GS-11 levels wear single silver bars. These individuals typically serve as superintendents, and shift and section supervisors.

At the GS-11 and GS-12 levels, civilian police officers who serve as deputy chiefs and assistant operations officers wear double silver bars commensurate with rank insignia of an Air Force captain; at the GS-12 level and above, civilians who are directors or deputy directors wear the gold and silver oak leaf cluster insignia similar to those of majors and lieutenant colonels.

Alberto Jorge-Sanchez, 502nd SFLSG Group Support Staff director, said the Air Force has used military-type rank for civilian police and guards in the past, but to a limited degree.

"The only rank insignia authorized were corporal for GS-7 and sergeant for GS-8," he said. "There was no rank insignia for GS-9 through GS-14. These grades were given title bars in lieu of rank."

Richard Coon, 902nd SFS assistant operations officer, said the new regulations establish a "clear line of authority."

"It separates you from your troops through the echelon of rank," he said.

Coon said it also provides a visual cue for members of the base community.

"When I'm on site, people will know I'm a supervisor, whether they're civilians or military members," he said.

Gillespie said the insignia allow civilian officers to be "more accurately recognized for their positions, experience and authority as leaders within the squadron.

"The ranks also help our members to establish their position and experience when operating with outside agencies," he said.

Police Sgt. Travis Cooper, 802nd SFS supervisory police officer, said the wear of rank "is a longtime military tradition that establishes a structure and identifies leadership roles within the unit.

"Young Airmen and less experienced civilian officers can go to their NCOs or civilian officers in a supervisory position to obtain the proper mentorship and guidance as needed and see the rank that identifies their supervisors," he said.

Jorge-Sanchez called commensurate rank "a sign of inclusiveness within the Department of Defense and security forces family and a tremendous morale booster within JBSA."

"Civilian police officers operate in an environment conducive to the use of military-type rank," he said. "The nature of their work requires easy identification of key civilian police leaders within security forces squadrons and also provides a common framework when working jointly with our civilian counterparts during incidents and emergencies."

Col. Michael Gimbrone, 502nd Security Forces and Logistics Support Group commander, said the Air Force's decision on commensurate rank has "many far-reaching benefits."

"Air Force-wide, it serves as a way of standardizing the appearance of the police force from base to base and it provides a visible connection between our civilian and military defenders," he said. "For the members of the JBSA community, seeing military-type rank helps provide a common understanding of the level of responsibility assigned to any individual member. For the DAF police and guards themselves, it facilitates their interaction with members of the base community and with members of civilian police agencies, along with instilling a sense of pride that goes along with earning the privilege of pinning on and wearing the rank insignia."