Vernon detective awarded commendation medal from Army

Published 10:16 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

Vernon Parish Detective Ben Burwell was awarded a Public Service Commendation Medal from the U.S. Army recently, highlighting a growing partnership between the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office and Fort Polk authorities.

Burwell has spent the majority of his life serving in law enforcement. He graduated from the Alexandria Regional Police Academy in 2005 and for the next many years, he worked for the Leesville Police Department before moving to the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office in 2019.

Over these most recent years with VPSO, Burwell has worked on the agency’s Narcotics Task Force where Sheriff Sam Craft said Burwell has become a positive influence to the department.

“Det. Burwell has completed numerous advanced law enforcement training courses over the years and has become a great asset to our department, and to the citizens of Vernon Parish,” Craft said.

The Commendation Medal was awarded to Burwell in recognition of his work with Fort Polk investigators into the criminal conduct of members of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang. The motorcycle club has been at the forefront of a rise in criminal activity in the Leesville and surrounding areas recently, and has ties to some active-duty military members.

In October, three members of the motorcycle group were arrested and charged with terrorizing after drawing their weapons while at a public business when they encountered members of a rival motorcycle group.

Burwell said that was a turning point in the investigation into the gang activity.

“We have had a lot of assistance from the public and from business owners who do not want that kind of activity associated with their business, and they have been instrumental in working with us to cut down on the violence,” Burwell said.

But the motorcycle gang investigation is just one of many investigations that have been a joint operation with Fort Polk investigators recently, which prompted the Commendation Medal Burwell received.

Burwell said he and other VPSO detectives have spent the past decade endeavoring to grow the relationship with  Fort Polk through joint operations that he said benefit both communities.

“By working with Fort Polk, we are able to help protect citizens of Vernon Parish and Fort Polk soldiers who reside in our communities. By working together, we benefit all families involved,” he said.

Burwell said he believes that networking with other agencies is a vital part of policing that can lead to a greater outcome for all involved.

“The bigger the network, the bigger the outcome; I really believe that. The ability to work well with other agencies can make a great impact within neighborhoods at any level. It all starts there,” he said.