Training Our Cops For Combat
If you read the world news headlines it’s easy to find articles about terrorist acts being committed in other countries and how the specific country’s military responded. This is a common theme all around the world. Terrorist group commits act – country’s selected military unit responds. Why is that? Because terrorists commit acts of violence that are, for all intents and purposes, acts of war.
The only reason we, in general, don’t label them as such, is because they aren’t acting on behalf of a government. While it’s no secret that many governments sponsor and support various terrorist organizations, those terrorist organizations are not given the authority to act on behalf of a specific government. So, it’s not “an act of war”. Here in the United States, we have a special problem that calls for a special solution: we define terrorism as a crime.
That means that our law enforcement professionals, and not the military, will be tasked to respond to and deal with terrorist acts. What’s the problem then? Our law enforcement professionals are not – as part of their academy or in-service training – prepared to act as combatants on a battlefield. They are trained as peace keepers; law enforcers; not soldiers in a war.
Here’s the irony: According to LtCol R. Gangle (USMC ret) in 2002, approximately 85% of our military deployments in the past four decades had been peace keeping missions. So, to me, this naturally begs the question: If our soldiers and our law enforcement professionals are both fulfilling the primary mission of peace keeping, then why is their training so radically different?
The answer, at least partially, lies in the recognition of this fact: men (and women) can be trained to commit acts of violence and acts of defense. It is a fact that acts of defense can be violent in and of themselves. However, the primary difference between war and peace keeping is that war mandates offensive violent actions. It requires attack.
Peace keeping requires constant vigilence while keeping all violent energy contained until such time as it is required to defend against an attack. Further, in peace keeping, the mandate is always to release as little of that violent energy as is necessary to repel or overcome the attack. “Using that minimum force which is necessary to affect the arrest” is a term often heard in law enforcement training.
Now, just as a barbarian cannot act civilized, but a civilized man can act like a barbarian, it’s unreasonable to expect that we can train peace keepers to train and operate within specific parameters and then expect them to shrug off all the limits they’ve learned when faced with acts of war. Our professional peace keepers in the United States – those police officers, deputies, federal agents, etc. – they have spent months and sometimes years training to perform their duties within the controls and restrictions of Constitutional Law, State, County and Local laws, and departmental guidelines.
They are regularly given reminders that all uses of force will be at least minimally investigated and that they (the LE professionals) will be held criminally and civilly liable if they use more force than is required.