More than 30 police officers from Europe are visiting the United States as part of the International Police Exchange Program, STAR. Alabama is one of five states participating in the program.
Separated by more than 4,800 miles, brothers in blue from Germany are staying with Decatur police officers for two weeks. They are learning much about how law differs between the two nations and even more about the unity involved in law enforcement.
“You know the other person is a police officer when you talk to them the first time," explained German International Police Exchange President, Thomas Pouillon.
Four officers from Germany spend two weeks staying in the homes of officers. The weeks are packed full with opportunities to learn about American law enforcement and culture. The officers visited Cullman Police Department, Huntsville Police Department and multiple correctional facilities.
“Our prisons are compared to your prisons are more vacation homes,” said Pouillon.
The men and women also spent a weekend at the Gulf with the Coast Guard, “They saw some interdiction work and enjoy the beach,” said Alabama Police Exchange President, Jimmy Hood. “So that was a good weekend.”
There were some stark cultural differences in law practices, though.
“Our citizens aren’t allowed to carry guns anywhere,” said Pouillon. “It’s easier for us, no shootings stuff like that, so America is way better and quick with guns than we are. We don’t need an AR-15. It’s just not necessary in Germany.”
And while laws, government and language have some major differences, the thin blue line unites officers everywhere. A bond that was shared among the officers throughout the experience.
“It doesn’t matter than an ocean separates us,” said Hood. “We still have the same job to protect the public. That’s what we are supposed to do and that’s what we do.”
The STAR International Police Exchange Program is between police officers in Europe and the United States; primarily Germany, Switzerland and now Spain. The five participating states are California, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and of course Alabama.
American officers have the opportunity to visit Germany in May.