As law enforcement officers, we walk a fine line of being kindhearted community servants, and aggressive door-kickers. We are tasked with both being ready to get grandma’s cat out of the tree and strapping on the body armor, grabbing a patrol carbine and running to the sounds of gunfire. Our duties are wildly varied.
This leads to a highly debated topic in the U.S. today. In the past few years we have often heard the cries of police becoming too “militarized”. We have been told our vehicles and our uniforms look too aggressive to some. In reality, it’s an important conversation to have. What exactly does society expect from those who police it?
One has to look no further than the terror attacks in Paris, or the school shootings in any number of American schools, the Navy Yard in Washington DC, the Recruiting Station shooter in Chattanooga, Nadal Hasan at Ft. Hood, the massacre of 5 officers in Dallas, or the Garland, Texas shooter…the list can go on and on, but what remains the same is that American police officers are called to violent situations on a regular basis in all 50 states of our union. Situations in which criminals with varied motives have deadly tools that they have turned against the populous.
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American law enforcement is unique when compared to most other nations in that we don’t use the military to police our civilian population. The “Posse Comitatus Act”, signed in 1878 is something that sets us apart. Our leaders saw the danger of letting the military be used for domestic law enforcement purposes, and to this day it is prohibited.
Therein lies the conundrum. If the military’s express purpose is to defend us from foreign threats yet we don’t want an overly “militarized” police force…how do we address the threats in our midst that require more than what a typical American police officer carries with him?
Fortunately, most departments have found a good balance. We train a certain segment of our officers in special tactics to confront those who use extreme violence. Some call them SWAT, SRT Teams, or Tactical Response Units, but their mission is the same, to respond to situations that presents extreme risk or requires more attention than typical patrol officers can provide.
All over the U.S. officers routinely enter houses of those who traffic drugs, stolen property and even human beings. These people are often well armed and have shown their willingness to use violence.
Or you can look at our schools. They are a priority for us, and all of the agencies in our area have sent their officers to specialized training for active school shooters. The response to these scenarios is not typical of what most officers face in a routine day.
And it boils down to the fact that law enforcement is saddled with the job of stopping violent situations as fast as humanly possible. Honestly, these scenes are not topics that most Americans ever contemplate. They have no reason to. It’s not their job.
But it is ours.
And often times having the right tools can help bring these situation to a speedy and safe conclusion. Few parents I know would argue about police have too many tools at their disposal if it’s their child trapped in the middle of a school shooting.
So when you see police utilize specialized gear to address some of society’s malcontents, know that in the vast majority of cases, police departments are striving to use the tools needed to get the job done ethically and safely, all while protecting the public… as well as the officers that are put into the fray.
Lt. Col. Dave Grossman said it best when he said:
“Our military is the sword that spreads out around the globe to strike down threats to our nation. Our law enforcement is the shield that protects our communities from threats here at home.”
I believe this tandem has done an excellent job at their respective tasks and given the proper support and tools, will continue the job far into the future.
In the era of domestic terrorism, human trafficking, and school shooters, our police will utilize all of the resources at our disposal to safeguard our families and our communities, while we simultaneously keep our eye on respecting the civil rights each of us as Americans have. As we carry out our mission, we will work be as open and transparent as we can about the “why and how” of the duties we have been tasked with.
To the public that supports us and their hometown police and sheriff’s departments, we owe you a great deal of thanks. Our job would not be possible without the backing of those we serve. You are our focus and your well-being is paramount to our team.
And to those out there who wish to bring violence to our homes, schools or businesses… know that we plan, train, and equip ourselves to protect our citizens, our communities, and those who have entrusted us with their safety. When it comes to defending our part of Texas, we play for keeps.