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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Enlightenment about the Role of Police Officers in our society - Silence DoGood

As if it wasn’t obvious, I read a tremendous amount of material from a variety of sources and resources. Yesterday, I read an article in “The Atlantic” about how the police are being militarized -(Turning Patrolmen Into Soldiers: How Did We Let This Happen? - The Atlantic - James Fallows - Nov 21 2011). The writers, a Gulf War veteran who now works for the US Department of Justice and a Georgetown Attorney who is also a Ph. D. candidate had quite a bit to say about how American police are using military technology, which is true. How they are using military grade weapons; also true. How they are using military tactics, uniforms, haircuts, and sunglasses to emulate military forces, maybe. How the civilian authorities are using attack helicopters; what? I read all of these things and the only evidence proffered was a raid in Arizona or somewhere on the residence of a former Marine by a S.W.A.T. team doing a drug raid and when the Gulf Vet landed at the airport in some place in Minnesota, the police there were carrying M-4 carbines. Every other statement in that article was unsupported one-sided ideological conclusion that would make the reader seriously consider what country it is they reside in. Then, as if that weren’t enough, that article listed on a blog sight so I followed along to read some of the comments. There were ‘veterans’ commenting about how the police are different from the military (duh) and how the military would not fire on American civilians, blah, blah, blah. Not to mention there has been a serious disconnect between the police and civilian populations since 9/11.

Did any of you happen to read this? I can’t believe a magazine with the reputation of “The Atlantic” would print such an ‘article.’ First of all, let me say this. Police forces are para-military organizations. Their primary mission is to enforce the laws of the United States, the State in which they find themselves, and any local government for which they might find themselves employed. They save and protect life and property, and they are tasked with abiding by those same laws they are sworn to enforce. There may be departments and Chiefs who would re-order those things in that list and that’s fine. However you slice it, the police are societies’ ‘or else’ factor. The police are the ones who get the call when citizens are nervous, under stress or attack, or fear something dire is about to transpire. In other vernacular, that would translate into, ‘keeping the peace.’ By society, I mean a bunch of people living together under a common set of rules, not by socio-economic status. Have weapons and tactics changed over the years, and not the years immediately after 9/11? Sure they have. Criminals are not just armed with a revolver or the ubiquitous “Saturday Night Special” any more. Criminals come in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities. And just yesterday in the Military Times, I read where gang members are infiltrating the United States Military.

However, I started researching some of the claims. A quick Google search produced nothing even remotely relevant to American police using or even having attack helicopters. Now, an attack helicopter to me is something in the Apache, Cobra, or MI-24D configuration with guns, rockets, and missiles hanging off of it. Not one source was found identifying any domestic police agency in the United States as having such an item. The NYPD was identified as having surface to air missiles. Given the nature of the last attack, that isn’t completely unreasonable. However, the nature of the police is usually showing up after the fact, so I don’t know what good it could possibly do in the event of another such attack. It could come in handy if there was an aircraft spraying or dispersing a biological or chemical agent to halt that spread, but again, right place right time would play a huge role. The one thing that I did find of interest was the pending use of drones and their approval by the FAA. The same remote controlled flying circus that uses sensors and rockets and bombs in Afghanistan could be patrolling the border soon. Problem is, there is no target identification capability with those things. They don’t know the difference between Farmer Brown carrying a bale of hay and Juan the drug smuggler carrying a bale of marijuana. They’re targets and guess what happens to targets.

No, reading that article, I got the hint of something much more sinister in mind by the writers; a fomenting of resistance against the civilian authorities to allow for a military installation of authority. Now the writers did talk about the difference between military and civilian law enforcement missions and how the military was to engage and destroy enemy. Depending on your frame of reference and the high regard with which soldiers are revered currently, it would seem that they were saying that, in essence, soldiers should be patrolling since there are no enemies here in the United States, so, no problem. Let me remind you of a few things you have known but perhaps forgotten. The third infantry division has been trained for domestic occupation here. There is a plan in place, so placed just after 9/11, for their deployment on American soil, to aid civilian authority in time of unrest or disaster. While that sinks in, let me state this, if that deployment happens, there will be no local civilian control over those forces. They will be under Federal control and that translates into DOD or DHS control. Now that violates several Acts and statutes of Federal code, but that hasn’t been a stumbling block prior to. If you happen to read the Defense Authorization Act of 2012, you will see that it proposes to give US Military forces sweeping powers domestically, including holding citizens without charge, for indeterminate lengths of time.

Let me point out to you that while civilian law enforcement is certainly not perfect, neither is the military. When was the last time you heard of a civilian police officer being convicted, or charged for that matter, of cutting noses off people arrested and jailed? No? Me either. I can’t fathom why a Department of Justice employee and a Georgetown attorney and Ph.D. candidate would collude on such an article. Clearly, the attorney would know the pratfalls of writing unsupported conclusions with not one shred of support for the conclusions drawn being provided is absurd and would cause the rational mind to dismiss the piece outright. But what if you don’t read that critically? What if you take the qualifications of the writers as themselves being quantifiable and assume each word as truth and take it at face value?

No folks, there is something askew with this article. Police forces have always drawn veterans from military service into their ranks. So talk of that basis of training or skill levels as being new is wrong since it has always been inherent in the police since before World War II. That is nothing new. The military doesn’t un-train you when you leave. The upsurge in that type of training is perhaps necessary because police forces in the last 20 or so years have been intent on hiring kids that went to college and have no practical experience and small amounts of common sense and thus, have to be taught those things that may prove practically useful at some point in time, with the hope that they never have to use those tactics or that weapon. Civilian law enforcement is not to be feared in this nation and there is a very small, limited, and unarmed role for the military to aid civilian authority on domestic soil. Part of the oath every person entering in to military service is, in part, “…defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic….” In light of that, I’ll ask this, who or what makes the decision about who is the enemy? Y’all think about it.

1 comment:

Silence DoGood said...

Since the original piece, some things have happened I'd like to add, ad nauseum.

Item: S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act passed by a vote of 93-7. Critics are calling it the worst piece of legislation since the Patriot Act was passed. There's not enough blog space for Thom to post the contents, but if you want to look it up, I'll point you toward sections 1031-1036 of the Act.

Item: Iran shoots down a US spy drone.

Historians are going to look at this period in time from the future one day and muse about what it was we were thinking. Hopefully, little pockets of information and illumination will persist, like the Hound, so that history will not damn everyone in this age as blind, deaf, and mute.