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CALEA Update Magazine | Issue 104

Agency Spotlight — NASA Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy

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[Editorial Note: Every law enforcement agency, communications center, and training academy that achieves a CALEA award has a unique story to tell as an organization. In an effort to “spotlight” these agencies and share their story with the rest of the CALEA clients, we will begin publishing profiles of accredited agencies in the CALEA Update. Any agency that would like to be included in this series is encouraged to contact CALEA Update Editor, Janice Dixon, for information on submitting an article.]  

When you hear ‘National Aeronautics and Space Administration’ — NASA — you think astronauts, scientists, and space shuttles. You do not think about the critical law enforcement and security requirements associated with NASA. Additionally, you probably did not realize the training for the law enforcement and security officers responsible for the protection of the personnel and resources at NASA’s fourteen centers located throughout the country are trained at a CALEA–accredited training academy.

In November 1988, the Space Act of 1958 (NASA’s statutory charter) was amended  to grant statutory federal arrest authority (FAA) to select NASA employees and contractors authorized to carry firearms. This authority is essentially identical to the authority of several other federal agencies whose primary missions are not law enforcement, so they can cope with indigenous criminal issues. Granting FAA to NASA’s contractors was a rare, but not unique, feature of the statute.

To satisfy NASA’s law enforcement and security training requirements, the NASA Federal Law Enforcement Training (NFLET) Academy was established at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), located approximately 30 miles east of Orlando on Florida’s Space Coast. The first cadre of instructors was sworn in June 1993, and since that time the Academy has graduated over 2000 students. Over 750 NFLET-certified officers are currently still serving NASA nationwide.

Space Gateway Support (SGS), a private company, manages and staffs the Academy under contract with NASA. The NASA KSC Chief of Security, Special Agent Mark Borsi, functions as the Chief Executive Officer to provide NASA-oversight for the NFLET Academy’s operation. As a government employee, S/A Borsi works hand-in-hand with SGS instructors to ensure that NASA’s professional training standards are satisfied. With a staff of 11 highly qualified instructors, the Academy is responsible for training all NASA officers nationwide, leading to and maintaining either Federal Arrest Authority (FAA) certification or the Security Officer Fundamentals Certification Course (SOFCC). The numbers of FAA and SOFCC certified officers vary from center to center.  For example, at Kennedy Space Center all 215 armed personnel are FAA certified, while at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Alabama, 48 are FAA certified and 11 are SOFCC, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, has 75 FAA certified officers. 

To train such a large pool of officers at such divergent geographic locations as MSFC and JPL using a staff of only 11 instructors, the NFLET instructor cadre must be skilled and certified in a wide variety of disciplines, such as Use of Force, Human Diversity, Ground Defense, Non-Lethal Training Ammunition to name a few. The NASA Federal Arrest Authority program consists of two courses, a basic and a refresher course. Once a candidate is selected for certification, they are also trained and qualified on the weapons system selected for their center. This includes handguns and patrol rifles, or submachine gun, as required. After qualification with weapons, they attend the 152 hour FAA basic course, which is conducted in three sections: 

  • Legal – Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Jurisdiction, Investigative Detention, Probable Cause, Arrest Authority, and Courtroom Procedures.
  • Non-Legal – Emergency Vehicle Operations, Ethics, Human Diversity, Investigative Interviews, Managing Human Behavior, Report Writing, Sexual Harassment Prevention, Tactical Communication, Terrorist Threat Awareness, Victim’s Rights, and Workplace Violence.
  • Use of Force – Policy and Procedure, Sympathetic Nervous System, Subject Control Techniques, Non-Lethal Training Ammunition, Active Shooter, Active Countermeasures, Approach to Contact, Building and Room Searches, Early Recognition, Non-Lethal Training Ammunition Drills/Scenarios, and Vehicle Apprehensions.

Once certified, the officers are sworn and then every two years complete a 40-hour in-service refresher course to maintain certification. In the refresher course, new case law is introduced along with new techniques and practice of previously learned techniques by way of drills and scenarios.

So what are the challenges the NFLET Academy faces to ensure that NASA’s law enforcement training goals are met?  

Safety:

The inherent safety culture of NASA affects practically every aspect of NFLET Academy training. While Use of Force training is realistic and scenario-based, using state-of-the-art applications, safety concerns are mitigated via mandatory safety reviews of all new or revised training, which is conducted by personnel outside of the academy staff.

The NFLET also uses Job Safety Analyses (JSA) to identify risks associated with any training. The assigned instructor for any particular training class is responsible for reviewing the JSA and briefing the students prior to the commencement of training.

The JSA identifies:

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Physical hazards
  • Prohibited conduct
  • Personal responsibilities 

All injuries and anomalies are reported and tracked via a computer-based program. A review of reports generated by the system allows the staff to analyze safety-related trends that may be attributed to training methods. An instructor is designated as the Safety Officer for all high liability training, with the sole responsibility of monitoring the class for safety issues. Classes are video recorded. If an incident occurs resulting in an injury, the video is reviewed by an independent Safety Committee.

Logistics:

Not all of the law enforcement and security training is conducted at the KSC location. To provide training at fourteen NASA centers across the nation, the NFLET staff must travel on average five times per year. Training equipment, from mats for defensive tactics to personal protective equipment for Non-lethal Training Ammunition, has to be shipped for every scheduled course. Sometimes NFLET courses are conducted at more than one NASA center at the same time. This creates additional challenges from the standpoints of logistics, scheduling, and inventory and the instructors have to be flexible in their personnel lives to meet these challenges.

Course Development:

The prosecutorial authority at the fourteen NASA centers varies widely and includes proprietary, concurrent, and exclusive federal jurisdiction. Consequently, the NFLET staff must stay abreast of the legal issues concerning each center and their specific training requirements, which are established from regulatory requirements, requests for additional training, and requested revisions to training. For example, a “bridge course” was developed to certify a SOFCC officer to a FAA officer by combining each programs training while also meeting the requirements of NASA. This reduced travel and overtime cost. 

A Training Curriculum Development Committee meets every other year to establish changes to refresher training. Changes to the core curriculum for the FAA Basic Course and the SOFCC course are based on both external and internal needs, as identified by the Training Curriculum Development Committee.

The NASA KSC Protective Services Office opted to seek CALEA accreditation for the NFLET Academy as a means of validating the Academy’s programs and ensuring the fulfillment of the high training standards required by NASA. After reviewing the process, S/A Borsi concluded that CALEA’s standards would serve the Academy well as a benchmark for promoting superior training and recognizing future excellence. The NFLET Academy has been CALEA Public Safety Training Academy Accredited since March 2007, became only the second accredited training academy in Florida, and the 15th nationwide.

Through its continuing compliance with CALEA’s training academy standards, the NFLET Academy provides NASA with the highest level of professional law enforcement and security training available and will allow NASA to enjoy a seamless transition from one protective services contractor to the next, should contract changes occur. This is clearly an additional benefit of accreditation for NASA and the contractor.

So the next time you hear about NASA, remember the law enforcement and security officers protecting all those astronauts, scientists, and spacecraft vehicles at NASA facilities have been trained at the CALEA-accredited NASA Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy!

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