SWAT Cop Says American Neighborhoods Are 'Battlefields,' Claims Cops Face Same Dangers As Soldiers In Afghanistan

I just got the kindle edition of Rise of the Warrior Cop The Militarization of America's Police Forces By Radley Balko. Balko has been writing a lot of the last several years on the topic of police militarization and recently has been taking a lot of heat from law enforcement and I have posted many of the articles on the topic here on the web-site. Radley Balko in this piece attempts to tame his law enforcement critics in this piece "SWAT Cop Says American Neighborhoods Are 'Battlefields,' Claims Cops Face Same Dangers As Soldiers In Afghanistan"

My thoughts on Balko is he is not anti-cop, but instead focused on refocusing law enforcement efforts back to that of peace officers and using MILITARY type tactics only as a last resort in dangerous situations that warrant their use. Some of us in Law Enforcement may make the point that we are not always sure what situations will escalate and therefore we are better to be safe with military equipment and tactics than sorry without them. Perhaps that's true but in our efforts to be safe and reduce risk, are we losing sight of what it is we are sworn to do, protect and serve while upholding the rights of every citizen. Have we gone to far? Have we lost sight of our traditions and the meaning of what it is to be a peacekeeper? Have we established an us vs. them mentality so strong that we have lost sight of the bigger picture and the moral ramifications of our actions? There is a fine balance to be kept, between persuasion and force, between military and police. I have walked on both sides and they are very different especially in their missions. Military mission; to close with and destroy the enemy! Police mission; to close with and interact with citizens in an effort to root out crime and crime problems.

In fairness however to the Balko critics, the line between military and police has been blurred in the past 20 years, with evolving threats; terrorism, violent drug cartels and gangs, active shootings, more violent robberies, home invasions, domestic violence, rapes and murders, etc. being perpetrated with high quality weapons and equipment with more thought out plans enhanced through training, by those committing the crimes. However Balko himself I think would agree that in these type situations the tactics he is discussing would be justified. Its a tough job we cops have and how we do it matters. Police militarization, Love the topic or hate it is on the burners and cooking up emotions. Every cops should familiarize himself or herself, with the topic and give it some serious thought. Because the people we police are reading and studying it with a passion. This piece posted on August 21st 2013 has already over 17,000 likes and climbing.

The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

Stay Oriented!

Fred

SWAT Cop Says American Neighborhoods Are 'Battlefields,' Claims Cops Face Same Dangers As Soldiers In Afghanistan by Radley Balko

One of the central themes of my book is that that too many cops today have been conditioned to see the people they serve not as citizens with rights, but as an enemy. My argument is that this battlefield mindset is the product of a generation of politicians telling police that they're at war with things -- drugs, terrorism, crime, etc. -- and have then equipped them with the uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other accoutrements of war.

Over the last several days, the popular online police magazine PoliceOne site has been rolling out a series of opinion pieces in response to my book. As you might expect, most of them are critical, although a couple have been thoughtful.

One essay by Sgt. Glenn French was particularly disturbing. French serves as commander of a SWAT team in Sterling Heights, Michigan. French doesn't criticize me for arguing that too many police officers have adopted this battlefield mindset. Rather, he embraces the combat mentality, and encourages other cops to do the same. Referring to an article I wrote here at HuffPost, French writes:

“What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures?” the author wrote. “The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.”

We trainers have spent the past decade trying to ingrain in our students the concept that the American police officer works a battlefield every day he patrols his sector.

Note the choice of words. Not neighborhood, but "sector." Although I suppose such parsing isn't even necessary when French just comes right out and declares America a battlefield. Note too that French isn't even referring to SWAT teams, here. He's suggesting that all cops be taught to view the streets and neighborhoods they patrol in this way.

French then tosses out some dubious statistics.

The fact is, more American police officers have died fighting crime in the United States over the past 12 years than American soldiers were killed in action at war in Afghanistan. According to ODMP.org, 1,831 cops have been killed in the line of duty since 2001. According to iCasualties.org, the number of our military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan is 1,789.

Cops on the beat are facing the same dangers on the streets as our brave soldiers do in war.

Even accepting French's preposterous premise here, his numbers are wrong. The U.S. has lost 2,264 troops in Afghanistan, about 22 percent more than French claims. Moreover, more than half police officer deaths since 2001 were due to accidents (mostly car accidents), not felonious homicide. Additionally, depending on how you define the term, there are between 600,000 and 800,000 law enforcement officers working in the United States. We have about 65,000 troops in Afghanistan. So comparing overall fatalities is absurd. The rates of cops killed versus soldiers killed aren't even close. And that's not factoring in the soldiers who've come home without limbs. The dangers faced by cops and soldiers in Afghanistan aren't remotely comparable.

As I've pointed out before, the actual homicide rate for cops on the job, while higher than that in the country as a whole, is still lower than the rate in about half of the larger cities in America. If cops on the beat face "the same dangers on the streets as our brave soldiers do in war," so does everyone who lives in Boston, Atlanta, or Dallas.

Continue reading the rest of the story here: