News: Security Forces Investigator helps bridge the gap
Story by Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Inside a law enforcement facility on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, a phone rang. A man wearing a collared shirt and khaki pants answered the phone, "Investigations, may I help you?"
"Yes, I was told to contact OSI?" The voice on the phone said.
Zach Gigeous, 673d Security Forces Squadron Investigations, sighed. "Sorry, this isn't OSI."
It wasn't the first time he's received this sort of call, and it won't be the last. Confusion exists concerning the differences between the investigative branch of the 673rd SFS and the Office of Special Investigations. In fact, confusion exists between Investigations and Patrol.
"We are not first responders," Gigeous said. "Uniformed patrols, cops in patrol cars, respond to the situation initially and do the initial paperwork. They get the statements if there are any at the time, but they handle everything right then and there. We'll follow up on it. It could be days later before we interview anyone, and we normally talk to everyone else before we talk to the suspect just so that we have all of the surrounding information.
"We may interview people that the patrol already interviewed, as far as why did this guy assault this guy, or why did he steal this," Gigeous continued. "We'll get the evidence that the patrol acquired and do what needs to be done from there. If we need to go out to the scene and get more evidence, or if we need to talk to more people, then we will. If we need to ask more questions, we follow up with it."
When patrol officers pull people over for traffic violations, the Law Enforcement desk uses a system maintained in the Investigation office - the Alaska Public Safety Information Network, he said.
"Off-base has APSIN in their patrol cars," said Sarah Day, 673rd SFS Investigations. "Here, we don't. So they call it in over radio and the desk sergeants will run it. If there are any issues with it, our office is the one responsible for the full system on the installation."
Investigations is made up of Security Forces and Military Police, Gigeous said.
"OSI takes people from all career fields," Gigeous said. "At Investigations, we are strictly cops. We basically investigate any matters that involve anything from larceny and assault to domestic violence and drugs. It depends on the level of the assault or crime."
The differences between the three units can be considered according to the level of case extremity.
"It depends on the level of the assault or crime," he said. "We are not first responders, we will come in typically after the fact. Since there are patrols, it has to be a certain level of severity to give it to us. And it has to be even more severe for us to give it to OSI. We're like the middle guys."
There's no clear rule regarding when a case crosses the line between Investigations and OSI, he said.
"We have a matrix as far as, of what we respond to, what we take," the investigator said "It depends," Gigeous continued. "The matrix is a general guideline to go by. For example, with larcenies, if it's worth roughly $25,000 or more, OSI is going to take it. They still have the option to say we should take it. The matrix more or less just helps decipher who should take the cases."
A recent case of larceny has been in the spotlight.
"We had one case with an individual who was allegedly stealing things from the recreational vehicle lots," Gigeous said. "He was stealing four-wheelers, snow machines and entire trailers full of dirt bikes. All in all total, there was over $100,000 worth of stuff that was stolen.
"That's not really a lesser offense because that's a pretty big bust, but as far as paperwork that outlines what we take and don't take, this was confined to the lesser offenses area," he explained. "That recreational vehicle theft is probably the biggest bust we've had in a long time. This office was able to recover or link the theft of over $90,000 worth of personal equipment to include recreational vehicles like ATVs and snow machines. We have a suspect that allegedly misappropriated the items."
It started with a couple individual thefts that were ultimately linked back to an Army member, Gigeous said.
As Investigations continues to process the case, the suspect will go through the legal process in appropriate order.
"Charges have been filed that cover approximately $40,000 in snowmobiles and other recreational equipment," said Army Capt. Joseph Eros, judge advocate, case prosecutor and native of Shepherdstown, W. Va. "We are still at an early stage of the court-martial process."
In this specific case, the amount allegedly stolen isn't the same as the amount missing.
"We have not been able to track down everything missing," Eros said. "The amount could be significantly higher."
Investigations also works with some Air Force drug cases, Gigeous said. The Army's Criminal Investigation Command, abbreviated CID, takes all Army drug cases.
"For the Air Force cases, we normally investigate simple narcotic use or if we receive a positive urinalysis," Gigeous said. "If he says he smoked one time on a weekend, never did it before, that's something that OSI may want us to keep. If it's something like he and his buddies do it all the time and buy it from another guy, if it looks big enough, OSI determines if they will take it. They take the more severe cases, and anything to do with death."
Other cases they work with include domestic violence and assault.
"OSI covers homicide, murder, anything with death or rape," he said. "OSI also investigates sexual assaults, although sometimes a less egregious case may get passed to us."
Investigations normally functions in the middle.
"We work directly with AFOSI, CID and straight patrol cops," said Sarah Day, 673d Security Forces Squadron Office of Investigations. "We're kind of the liaison between them. CID and OSI are federal agents and they handle more like felony type cases and road cops will do anything that happens during their shift, simple investigations, anything that's able to be completed by them. We kind of get the middle portion, so misdemeanors, we may handle some felonies, essentially anything CID or OSI doesn't want to take, we will."
Investigations, the Legal Office, and units maintain communications. Investigations also briefs at the First Term Airmen Center and provides educational services such as drug familiarization to first sergeants.
"When I interview you," Gigeous said . "I'll call the shirt and ask him to come pick you up. Then I'll talk to the commander and say this is what we found, I think this, they stated this, basically we just tell him what we got. He goes off our recommendations and legal's."
Some of the confusion between OSI and Investigations might come from their attire. No uniforms are visible in their offices.
"Since we're investigators, we don't wear the uniform," Gigeous said. "The reason is so that the people we interrogate don't get intimidated by our rank. So if the person I interrogate outranks me, they may not take the situation seriously because of that rank difference. Or if they see that I outrank them, it can cause them to divulge something because of that intimidation factor. And sometimes we like to keep things low key, so when we're out and about it helps us that way too."
Their office used to be Air Force specific, he said.
"Since we've been joint, we took on civilians and Army as well," the investigator said. "We have two Army members working with us and then four of us are Air Force. Our staff has seven people; we have one civilian."
People often get them confused with OSI, he said.
"When I answer the phone 'Investigations' or when I show up at the hospital and give my credentials, they think I'm OSI," Gigeous said. "A lot of people don't know that we exist. We do."