Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Skin Deep

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.

The call began like many - a woman called a friend to report that her husband had struck her...again. The friend called police. Officers responded, intent on contacting the couple who were fighting. An alert cop eavesdropping on the conversation between victim and confidant heard "Put that gun down." Instead of knocking on the door of the house, officers deployed more defensively.

Good thing. The husband emerged with a thirty caliber rifle and shot at everything that moved. 

A fire team moved their squad automatic weapon - a 5.56mm machine gun - into position. They laid down a base of fire, successfully suppressing the suspect's efforts to kill them. In the meantime, another group flanked the house. One round from an M203 grenade launcher devastated the porch area where the gunman had made his sniper nest. Another, for good measure, set fire to the single family dwelling. The suspect was killed, as was his wife, who had taken refuge just inside their front door. Fortunately, the children inside survived after emergency medical care.


Much has been made of the "militarization" of law enforcement in the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, MO. It is fashionable for political pundits of every stripe to point out that police protective equipment and tactical uniforms resemble military kit so as to be indiscernible. They extrapolate law enforcement's mindset therefore as mimicking our brothers and sisters serving in the armed forces. They do this based on nothing more than prejudice...all right, and willful ignorance.

It is true that American police officers now employ an array of "lightweight" protective equipment based on hard-won experience in combat all over the world. The miracle, life-saving material Kevlar has been fashioned into, among other things, a helmet that can stop rifle rounds. Ceramic plates able to withstand everything but serious armor piercing ammunition are relatively inexpensive, their carriers comfortable (sort of) and can be donned quickly in a crisis. The experience of emergency medicine in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated the lifesaving capabilities of tourniquets and clot-producing dressings. Military arms? Nothing is more precise and eliminates a threat more safely than a semi-automatic AR-15 in the hands of a well trained shooter. Finally, military-style uniforms may have a certain cache to them but.... Try one on. They are amazingly comfortable.

A friend commented recently that several of his Tier One special operations friends laugh at the current emphasis of form over substance. They think the military has become more like cops, not vice versa. Why? The modern military emphasizes relationships with the locals, strict rules of engagement and eliminating civilian deaths. 

Why would we need all of this stuff? We're "peace officers" after all.

Two of our officers were shot a heavily armed asshole with a 7.62mm rifle. An unspeakably brave officer threw on a plate carrier, grabbed his long gun and ended the threat. Both wounded officers required tourniquets. One, who was cut down running courageously to aid the other officer, might otherwise have died. SWAT cops, wearing military-style greens and benefiting from advanced tactical training, swept the area for other offenders (there were none). 

The above scene with the "machine guns" and "grenades?" This is what really happened after the shooting started: Officers traded shots with the bad guy, one with a shotgun (covering other officers who had become targets). Finally, after a running gun battle, one officer with an AR-15 wounded the suspect. He was soon taken into custody and treated for his injuries. His wife and children, hiding in the house? Rescued by cops risking their own lives to accomplish the task. There is a significant, game-changing difference between police and military tactics. This situation is just one illustration.

Modern law enforcement is every bit as accomplished in the softer skills of talking, cajoling.... Maintaining peace in a just, diverse society. Experience and military science have provided us with the tools and training to end broad-scale unrest and violence with minimal risk to officers, offenders and bystanders.

The pundits disagree. Okay. I have a set of keys and a beat that needs filling. Obviously, they know what to do next.

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