Militarization of Police

To Demilitarize the Police, We Need To Change More Than Just Their Uniforms

The problem isn’t just that cops look like occupying soldiers, it’s that too many think and act like them.


The current moment of public focus on police conduct, set off in part by the police killing of George Floyd, has revived a familiar call to "demilitarize" the police, as images circulate of menacing, heavily armed cops riding armored vehicles and wearing military fatigues to quash demonstrations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the public conversation around police militarization tends to center on aesthetics—camouflage uniforms and flak jackets, armored vehicles, and tactical long guns are visually striking and tend to draw public attention. Calls to demilitarize the police accordingly tend to focus on things like the Pentagon's 1033 program and local police departments' acquisition of BearCats, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles known as MRAPs, and the like. 

Any effort to reduce the gratuitous use of military equipment by civilian police is certainly worth undertaking, and discerning the proper role for individual pieces of police gear can be complicated. But any discussion of police militarization that focuses only on equipment misses the full story, because militarism runs much deeper into American policing than vehicles and equipment. As a result, "demilitarizing" the police will require much more than tinkering with uniforms and gear.

Although armored vehicles and battle uniforms are certainly intimidating, the problem with police militarization isn't that officers look too scary; it's that treating policing like a military function misapprehends the proper relationship between the police and the general public. By treating cops like service members, militarized policing reinforces the idea that the police exist above and apart from civil society, and invites cops to see themselves as essentially different from—and superior to—ordinary citizens. The idea that officers are "sheepdogs," superior beings whose role is to keep naive, unthinking, and possibly criminal "civilians" in line, is ubiquitous in policing subculture. 

Getting cops to think and act like what they rightly are—publicly accountable agents of democratic self-governance—is the ultimate goal. Demilitarization is simply the means to that end. A mere return to the days of brass buttons, Crown Victorias, and .38-caliber revolvers will accomplish little if cops continue to think and behave as though they are a separate and autonomous ruling class.

The culture that breeds that mentality begins in the earliest days of an officer's training. Every police academy in the United States takes the approximate form of military basic training, but there's no good reason for this. Sure, cops need to follow supervisors' directions, but so do members of virtually every other profession. Boot camps are specifically designed to discourage hesitation, creative thinking, and the exercise of individual judgment. But individual police officers need to solve complex problems, exercise discretion, and decide between alternative courses of action, keeping competing interests in mind, every day. 

Nor is the in-group loyalty and "unit cohesion" that boot camps are meant to foster an unqualified good in policing the way it is in a military combat unit. Sure, officers need to be willing and able to back each other up in a crisis, but their first loyalty must always remain to the public and the law. Police officers should be encouraged to prevent misconduct by colleagues and report it when it does happen, but military-style indoctrination, by its very nature, undercuts this goal. The boot camp structure might also decrease the quality of policing by creating a filtering effect unrelated to the qualities that make for a good officer—a skilled interpersonal mediator might be deterred from the profession by the prospect of boot camp, while a hothead gym junkie might be drawn to it.

There's just no good reason why police training shouldn't be done in a professional environment. To the extent that physical fitness is an indispensable component of the job (and there's some reason to doubt this since many police agencies impose no continuing physical fitness requirements after the academy), officers should be required to meet fitness benchmarks by staying fit on their own time. 

But unnecessary militarism pervades policing far beyond the academy. Cops salute their supervisors, organize themselves by military ranks, and stand at attention. But why? Is obedience to authority really more vital in policing than in, say, medicine? Construction? Nuclear engineering? In any high-stakes job, failure to carry out instructions can have tragic results, but so can failure to question bad instructions. By requiring and rewarding conspicuous deference to authority among the ranks, these customs encourage police to prize obedience as an unqualified virtue. But the rightful relationship between constable and citizen bears no resemblance to that between supervisor and subordinate, let alone between soldier and commander. So why immerse officers in a culture that prizes hierarchy, authority, and obedience when what is really needed on the streets is more negotiation, creative problem-solving, and collaboration with the community? 

And let's not forget the uniforms. 

Like other forms of militarization, combat-style uniforms both send the wrong message about the role police play in a free society and encourage officers to think of themselves as authority figures rather than public servants. 

The iconic blue of police uniforms was chosen specifically to distinguish the first civilian police officers—London's Metropolitan Police—from the red coats of British infantry soldiers. This choice illustrated the fact that rigorous distinction between police and soldiers was one of the crucial founding ideas of Anglo-American policing. Armies of occupation used soldiers to control and pacify populations; police, by contrast, were supposed to serve and protect. American cops seem to have completely forgotten this in favor of military cosplay. Police militarization often conjures images of riot police in chunky protective armor designed to deflect rocks and bottles, but at least such gear serves a purpose. Far more concerning are the battle fatigues and combat-style accessories now routinely worn by many agencies because they suggest the erosion, in the minds of officers, of the important differences between themselves and the military. 

What might a truly demilitarized police force look like? We don't have to look too hard for examples. In the late 1960s the police department of Menlo Park, California, undertook comprehensive demilitarization as part of a broader effort to revive damaged community relations. Officers, sergeants, and lieutenants were renamed "agents," "managers," and "directors" and wore subtly-marked business attire that kept their weapons and handcuffs concealed. But the cops didn't like it, and when the reformist chief retired, they went back to their old ways. Such cosmetic fixes wouldn't cure American policing, of course, but combined with demilitarization of training and culture, they might change it for the better. At the very least, such reforms would send a needed reminder to officers and departments about their proper role in a free society.

NEXT: The British Government Forced Universities to Narrow The Gender Pay Gap. This Made It Worse.

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  1. If you want to demilitarize the police and lower the number of police shootings, you need to understand what is driving the shootings. No, it is not that cops are all racist killers looking to murder black people. They are shooting because they are terrified and poorly trained and have embraced what I call a action rather than reaction philosophy that is suited to armed combat not law enforcement.

    To understand what I mean, understand that my action will beat your reaction every time. I don’t care if you are Mr. Badass Seal, if I get my gun out first and really mean to kill you, you are likely dead unless I miss. No reaction is ever going to my action. It is called getting the drop on someone.

    This is why initiative is so important in combat. The guy who shoots or punches first almost always wins. So in combat people talk about terms like “hostile intent” or “designated hostile forces” that mean you can shoot the other guy before he tries to shoot you.

    That is the way to do it if you are fighting for your life. The downside is that you also shoot the wrong person sometimes. In war that is called collateral damage and is acceptable. In law enforcement, that is called shooting an innocent person and isn’t acceptable.

    Law enforcement traditionally has not had an action rather than reaction philosophy. In law enforcement, you have to wait and see if the guy really does have a gun and does intend to shoot you. You can’t just shoot someone based on perceived hostile intent and what you think might be happening. Doing so results in cases like the guy who walked to the door with a remote control in his hand only to have some cop shoot him thinking it was a gun.

    We have more and too many police shootings because police have become militarized. That doesn’t mean they wear snazzy uniforms or have nifty toys and tanks. It means they have embraced the action first mentality in dealing with the public that is suited to combat not law enforcement.

    How do you fix that? First understand they embraced this mentality out of fear of the public and the people they were dealing with. Some of that fear is unfounded but it still has to be dealt with unfounded or not. So, the first step is to get cops to feel safer and not feel like they are potentially walking into an ambush every time they deal with the public. You do that through better training. You also do it by ending stupid shit like no knock raids that create the potential for cops to be ambushed and worse create the risk of the public no knowing it is a cop who is coming through the door.

    After you do that and make sure that every time a cop deals with the public he is wearing a uniform and a badge and identifies himself. Then, you go back to the law that says anyone who kills a LEO in uniform and in the line of duty gets the death penalty no questions asked every single time. Make every crook and criminal understand that so much as laying a hand on a cop buys them more time in the can they ever want to do and killing a cop sends them to the chair. Make having a badge an uniform the biggest safety blanket a cop can have.

    Do that and you get cops who are not as terrified, better trained, more confident, and much less likely to shoot someone. That wouldn’t solve every problem but it would be a very good start.

    1. I don’t care if you are Mr. Badass Seal, if I get my gun out first and really mean to kill you, you are likely dead unless I miss. No reaction is ever going to my action. It is called getting the drop on someone.

      Like this:

        1. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

          Here’s what I do…………….new Income Opportunities

      1. That is exactly what I am talking about and the kind of thing that needs to be stopped.

        Do you not understand that? Do you think that I am endorsing this when I just wrote a long post explaining why it has no place in law enforcement and needs to be stopped?

      2. What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target. I will wipe you the fuck out with precision the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me over the Internet? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my secret network of spies across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can kill you in over seven hundred ways, and that’s just with my bare hands. Not only am I extensively trained in unarmed combat, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the United States Marine Corps and I will use it to its full extent to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re fucking dead, kiddo.

        1. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

            1. ESPN called. Said thesis is fired.

            2. Have you ever engaged in warfare against gorillas? They’re quite fearsome. Especially on that dreaded planet of the apes.

              1. I was thinking of the scene from Captain Jack. “guerilla, guer not gorilla”.

              2. Gorilla even made me laugh.

        2. Lighten up…Francis.

        3. 2004 called- they want their meme back.
          I actually posted this to someone being stupid about a year ago. The guy freaked; he wasn’t familiar with the meme and was gonna call the police, etc. Even after I ‘splained it to him, he was unhappy.

        4. Relax Francis.

      3. Cheese and rice, theHomeless Man was waving a gun at passers by, and was most likely committing suicide by cop

    2. Good and thoughtful comment, John. Thanks for writing it.

      1. Thanks. And I would add getting rid of qualified immunity. Let’s make the public deterred from getting violent with cops and then also get rid of qualified immunity to deter the cops from getting violent with the public. That would go a long ways towards making things less violent.

        1. I would also add busting the police unions. That will make it easier to fire those occasional “bad apples” we keep hearing about. The unions are the biggest obstacle in holding bad cops accountable when they cross the line.

          1. Also I would require that they hold a license for the job, and that the license be revoked for bad cops. That would prevent them from getting a job in the next town over after being fired.

            1. Don’t need a license. Just require them to carry liability insurance and a some kind of bond. They do that with loan officers and real estate salespeople. So why not cops too? It would help cover some of the cost of lawsuits when they fuck up, and also repeated claims would make bad cops uninsurable. Therefore making them unemployable everywhere.

          2. Now do Teachers Unions.
            Now do Bureaucrats Unions

    3. Cops are currently trained to have zero tolerance for anything that could compromise officer safety, and zero tolerance for noncompliance.

      That means when they bust into someone’s house and the person is sitting on the couch with something black in their hands that might possibly resemble a handgun, the cop must open fire or be fired.

      Same idea with noncompliance. The moment someone doesn’t do what a cop orders, questions an unlawful order, or otherwise doesn’t do what they are told when they are told, the cop must force compliance or lose their job.

      So like you said, they must initiate violence when there is no threat to their safety, else they will be canned.

      1. Exactly that and it turning real law enforcement on its head. And ironically enough, by introducing violence into situation where there was none, making cops less safe. It is an entire mentality that has seeped into law enforcement that needs to change.

        Sadly, we can’t have these kinds of conversations because the topic has been hijacked by an army of angry leftist retards.

        1. Really? I thought that after most of the libertarians left, these comments have been hijacked by an army of partisan, conservative retards who make the few libertarians who remain look like leftists by comparison.

          1. You thought wrong. It isn’t conservatives who are rioting over this and making the choice siding with the police or having chaos. It isn’t conservatives who are demanding stupid shit like defunding the police. And it isn’t conservatives who run the police departments and the cities where the worst abuses occur. How you think somehow they are the problem and not the leftists who run the cities and run the police departments in these cities and the leftists who are rioting and making any conversation impossible is a mystery known only to the voices in your head.

            1. And here I thought you were talking about the comments. Silly me.

              1. He’s right. Conservatives aren’t the problem here. And aren’t the ones flipping out, and looting.

            2. Assuming you can read this without having another emotional outburst, here is an example of what I mean. Democrats have finally come around to some ideas that libertarians have been preaching for decades. But because it is Democrats, not Republicans, who have some around to these ideas, the conservatives in the comments see libertarians promoting ideas are now being promoted by Democrats, and then they lose their shit.

              Whatever. You’re too busy setting fire to men of straw, and I’m fresh out of patience. Have fun.

              1. This is hilarious.
                More progressive every day

              2. Which ideas? Explain.

                1. What he means is that they pay lip service while continuing to push their authoritarian impulses. See how the legalized marijuana in Colorado, Washington, California, Oregon etc but then tax it and overregulate it to such an extreme that the black market continues to thrive. See how they supported gay marriage and now want to punish any church or person who personally has a problem with it. See how they want to “defund” the police but really just want to replace them with a differently named police force (ran by progressive ideals). See how they want to end qualified immunity but just for cops and not for any other government official (and only because police are the bad guys in the current zeitgeist). Oh and some police unions endorsed Trump so they are now bad. It comes back to the old canard about libertarians only being interested in drugs and buttsex.

                  1. AKTHUALLY, it is more like the following:

                    When Republicans do something that is distantly remotely libertarian, we are supposed to fall on our knees and give unswerving fealty to Team Red as the One True Libertarian Hope.

                    When Democrats do something that is distantly remotely libertarian, we are supposed to be suspicious of their motives and discount it as a cynical ploy to fool people and nothing more.

                    It’s the double standard that sarcasmic is referring to.

                    If Trump cuts regulations, we are supposed to cheer, right?
                    And if Pelosi is successful in enacting police reforms, what are we supposed to do? Bitch and complain some more, right?

                    The double standard is just galling.

                    1. Of course that is your take because A) you aren’t a true libertarian and B) you are a progressive who wants to believe you are a libertarian. I on the other hand admit admit I am not a full blown libertarian but realize that there is absolutely zero relationship between the left and libertarians.

    4. Your obviously have no experience with police. They are not terrified, they are trained to handle citizens as if they were terrorists. Some of this training supposedly comes from Israeli security forces who do treat Palestinians like animals. One wise elder person told me, if you treat people like animals you will have animals to deal with.
      Here is an example of how your supposed police is terrified.
      In the early seventies, before video cameras I witnessed an incident far worse than Rodney King. While at a summer job, I worked as a guard on the night shift at a building. I was told to check the parking lot opposite the building from the window as I went down the stairway. At about 2 AM I first noticed two police cars. Not unusual as they usually meet. Going down the next floor I looked out and noticed four police cars. Big meeting I figured. Going down the next floor, I noticed 7 or 8 police cars and a bunch of cops, about a dozen, standing outside. I looked to see what was going on. They took two young black kids out of a police car and started talking to them. They let one of the kids go. Then one of the cops started punching the hell out of the other kid while the rest stood in a semi circle watching. The kid collapsed to the ground. The cop then started kicking him in the head and stomach. The kid was trying to fend off the blows with his arms. He could not retaliate because he knew he would get shot. The kicking kept going on and on while the kid slowly crawled away, but no use the cop just kept at it. The kid got in the a doorway and was in the fetus position while the cop just kept on kicking him in the head and body. The cop finally stopped and some of the other cops picked up the limp body of the kid and threw it in the back of a police car. I was sure they had killed him. After about ten minutes, they dragged the kid out of the car and let him go, he stumbled away. They had nothing to charge him. That night I realized why blacks called cops pigs. That night and to this day, I have no respect for cops. They are a bunch of sadistic lunatics hiding behind a gun and badge. And the ones who keep quiet are just as complicit. The police union is one of the worst unions around for protecting these demented violent lunatics.

    5. What is the most common pretext for poilce “contact”? Is it not suspicion or evidence supporting possession, selling, using, buying making certain “substances” or overlords have, most times on VERY thin pretexts, determined to be “prohibited”. THIS industry is at the root of the vast majority of law enforcement interactioin with the public. WHY do so many cops stop a car because of a non-functional numbr plate lamp? He cares not a fig for the stupid lamp not working. He lives in hope he can play that “contact” out and end up finding a milligramme or three of some “controlled substance”. This undustry is driing most “illegal” gun possession and/or use. It drives a huge percentage of robberied and burglaries and housebreakings. ENd the “black market” in all such “substances” and I’ll venture to claim that two thirds of the reason for the existance of everyday law enforcement vanisheds. NONE of thos “substances’ are expensive to make or synthesize or grow or process. The high cost of ALL of them lies in their being “against the law”, therefor carrying a far higher risk for involvement in their commerce. Guns, stolen, unmarked, illegally possessed and/or gotten/sold, are necessary security in those traes, because of the “illicit’ designation of the stock in trade. How often does someone get robbed on the street to take their can of baked beans they are bringing home for a sorry supper? That’s right… approaching null. Replace that can of beans with an equal weight of any
      controlled substance” and the game changes…. radically. Thus the gun, no matter its status before the law, nor that of whoever holds it, is a necessary part of a normal day. And THUS is the root of nearly all the fear carried about by today’s cops. Let DEA handle that. On second thought, WHY are those “substances’ even “controlled” anyway? Does my using whatever of necessity and always cause YOU harm? Sure, if I ingest some then drive and can’t keep it together and hit YOUR car, then I hve harmed you. But the harm is my careless use of a vehicle whilst under the influence of an intoxicant… every bit the same as if I were so seriously sleep deprived, angry, under the intoxicating influence of an “acceptable” substance whose use whilst driving is prohibited. In such cases the item itself is not the problem, it is my unwise/careless USE of it.

      The REASON police are so militarised is that they have been conscripted to fight in a war…. a war on certain selected “substances”. End that war, or at least polilce involvement in it, and the militarisation will serve no purpose, and would then be rejected as “inappropriate”

    6. Outstanding, John. Expresses the problem simply, and from a point of view I’m fairly sure neither the article author, nor most of the commentariat, was expecting.

      Newhall started a lot of this. Miami, the FBI’s fumble-fucking in the aftermath of that, Daryl Gates’s tenure, and the North Hollywood shootings, all just kept the ball rolling.

      This in particular was great:

      [M]ake sure that every time a cop deals with the public he is wearing a uniform and a badge and identifies himself. Then, you go back to the law that says anyone who kills a LEO in uniform and in the line of duty gets the death penalty no questions asked every single time.

      Instead, critics will bitch about MRAPs and cargo pockets and we’ll end up getting nowhere.

    7. Then, you go back to the law that says anyone who kills a LEO in uniform and in the line of duty gets the death penalty no questions asked every single time. Make every crook and criminal understand that so much as laying a hand on a cop buys them more time in the can they ever want to do and killing a cop sends them to the chair. Make having a badge an uniform the biggest safety blanket a cop can have.

      Well, I don’t think there ought to be a death penalty at all.

      But even if I did, murder of an agent of the state should be considered identically to murder of anyone else. No special exception for killing cops.

    8. “Make every crook and criminal understand that so much as laying a hand on a cop buys them more time in the can they ever want to do”

      I detest the asymmetry of this. What about innocent people being harassed by a cop? If you so much as ‘lay a hand’ on them while they are arresting you (aka, initiating violence) they now have a free pass to execute you?

  2. Kid, you have a lot to learn about how things work in the world. You should rethink your reasoning on police training. They need much more military-style training, not less. MPs are specifically trained to de-escalate. Best of luck at UVa.

    1. They need military training in that it needs to be intense and diciplined. They do not, however, need to have a military mindset.

      And MPs only do law enforcement as a side job. Their real job is to protect and run supply routes during combat. And there, their job is most certainly not to de-escalate anything. They are basically mobile infantry whose job is to kill the enemy.

      1. Yes, MPs are only secondarily law enforcement. Slick Willy didn’t understand this, he stated as he cut the majority of MPs, “we don’t need soldiers whose job it is to write tickets”. Tell that to Jessica Lynch, whose convoy wouldn’t have gotten lost and ambushed if they had had adequate combat traffic control, or the thousands of service members killed and wounded as the Taliban and Iraqi insurgencies targeted convoys.

      2. But in their law enforcement training, which is also their duty, they are taught to de-escalate. And their law enforcement duties do make up most of their peacetime and stateside mission.

    2. They’re also policing trained killers, so escalating situations in the manner of Officer Friendly might be bad for their health.

  3. Menlo Park is a highly affluent community. Home to the elite rich. It’s where people go to live if they think Palo Alto is beneath them.

    So the idea of them ever having a militarized police problem is just bizarre. Maybe there’s an eastern sliver were the maids and butlers live in squalor that needs cops to roust them? Like East Palo Alto? Dunno.

    Menlo Park is where Hillary spent most of her time collecting money rather than campaigning.

  4. Take away qualified immunity and police unions and see how fast cops start acting better. They’ve been conditioned for a couple of decades to know that they’ll get away with all kinds of crap and that affects how they deal with people.

    1. I am okay with all of that. And let’s have a rule that cops must wear badges and uniforms and identify themselves. In return, let’s make assault a cop in the line of duty a twenty year sentence and killing a cop the death penalty.

      We need to de-escalate these situations. You do that by making both sides the cop and the public aware and deterred from escalating the situation.

      1. I think your idea is sound, but would note that some people have nothing to lose. That Brooks guy up in Atlanta was out on parole and if he got arrested for DUI he was going back to prison, so he reacted to the cuffs and it went bad from there.

        IMO, the cops also fucked up because they had the discretion to take his car keys and either let him walk home, or take him there themselves. Officer Friendly would do a guy a solid and get some good rep out of it.

        1. Even that guy had his life to lose, which he did. He was going back to prison and had nothing to lose but the thought of going to the electric chair should he kill one of those cops would likely have deterred him.

          Regardless, there will always be bad situations. But I really think we can have fewer of them if we are smarter about how we do things.

          1. When the cops grab you, the best move is to comply, shut up, and lawyer up. Fighting with them is almost always a terrible idea.

            1. Take the “almost” out of your last statement, and you’re exactly right.
              The time to complain about your rights being violated is after the fact.

      2. ” let’s make assault a cop in the line of duty a twenty year sentence and killing a cop the death penalty.”

        I’m going to say no here. It very much ought to be legal for regular citizens to defend themselves against cops engaged in misconduct.

        1. If the cop is acting unlawfully, then the person isn’t guilty of assault.

        2. The time to “defend” yourself “against cops engaged in misconduct” is later, when the situation is over, even if you think you are completely in the right.
          They won’t think they are “engaged in misconduct” and are authorized to use whatever force they deem necessary to effect the arrest.
          The time to complain is later, to their superiors – it isn’t ignored, nor not taken seriously. If they were wrong, it will cost them in some manner.

          1. Hard to defend yourself “later” when you’re dead.

          2. The time to complain is later, to their superiors – it isn’t ignored, nor not taken seriously.



      3. A pig who is found guilty of murder should be executed as well. And all bad pigs should be in genpop with the other criminals, not in a special police-only summer camp.

        You watch how fast they shape up when the penalty for beating a detainee is 180 days among their previous detainees.

        1. Not a bad policy, hypothetically at least.

  5. no-knock like they’re clearing Fallujah

  6. To Demilitarize the Police, We Need To Change More Than Just Their Uniforms

    Tonight, on Project Runway…

    1. Queer Eye for the Blue Guy.

  7. Slate Star Codex is down. Scott deleted the blog because the New York Times was going to doxx him. Evil bastards.

    1. What caused the Times to decide to do that?

      1. They claim it is their policy to use real names. Which is total bullshit.

        1. Which is just saying that it is their policy to dox people. Unless the guy is asking for them to write a story about him, they are doxing him. I guess they decided that they didn’t want the Post writer to keep the title of “most despicable garbage human being on earth” for ruining that woman’s life for wearing blackface two years ago at a private party. The Times said “hold my beer” and decided to show the world that yes, they really are just as bad.

          1. Time to dox anyone and everyone at the NY Times. Fuckers.

        2. Like with Eric Ciaramella?

          By the way, what’s the over/under on the NYT doxing him anyway?

  8. “… and encourage officers to think of themselves as authority figures rather than public servants. ”

    One thing people don’t seem to understand is the distinction between power and authority. Police have the authority to enforce the law, and the power to use force. Thing is, they routinely abuse their power in the name of authority because power and authority have become synonyms. They are not and should not be treated as such.

    1. My idea of a good sherif is Andy Taylor from Them Andy Griffith Show’. He was kind to kind to people, never shit anyone, and even gave Otis a safe place to sleep it off at night.

      1. The one time I try to say ‘shot’ and not ‘shit’, and autocorrect fucks it up.

  9. A few thoughts:

    There is a fundamental difference between a peace officer and an enforcement officer, at least in intent and mindset. The Atlanta shooting demonstrates that (things were going well when everyone was acting like peace officer / citizen, it went sideways when the police transitioned to enforcement officer). It is also the difference between pleasant knock on the door to ask questions and dynamic / no-knock warrant executions (no pun intended).

    The next is the mindset that having the police officer go home at the end of the day is the only measure that matters. That leads to things like the Noor shooting or the CCW passenger killed by a freaking out cop or the Cleveland killing the kid secs after arriving in a car. If you choose to be a cop, to put yourself in harms way, then you can’t be allowed to freak out every time there is danger.

    1. Are you fvckin stupid? The police transitioned the incident?

      1. Yeah. The cop grabbed the guy and started pulling his arms back to arrest him. It went from “genial” talk apparently about what to do with the guy to an somewhat abrupt move to arrest. So, damn right, the cop changed the meaning of the interaction. The the drunk moron fought with the cop, stole a weapon and attacked the police officer. But that happened after the interview ended and the taking into custody began.

        1. So they were doing their job. Hmmm, okay.

          1. There are a lot of ways to “do your job”. That is the whole point of my comment. Some approaches are counterproductive.

            1. They tried de-escalation. He was obviously breaking the law, do we let lawbreakers off now because they might react violently? Your statement is absolutely illogical other than the blame the cops always.

            2. Tell me the approach that gets Brooks arrested and in a cop car, if Kristian H. is calling the shots. Letting Brooks go home is a nonstarter, for several reasons, not least of which is that the cops will be responsible if Brooks drives off and hurts himself or someone else.

              I guess we can stop all enforcement of DUI. A lot of you would be for that, I think.

              A remarkably thing in those videos were the lack of pre-assault indicators Brooks had before he flipped out. He went from friendly to very violent, in the blink of an eye. Kind of like a lot of prison inmates do.

              1. Maybe Brooks shouldn’t have been arrested and in a cop car at all that night.

                1. So you let him drive home drunk? Let him off for driving drunk because you are afraid he might get violent? Which option is better there? Not enforcing laws because someone might get hurt? Where do you draw the line? Don’t enforce drunk driving (which is not a victimless crime)? Maybe we let off rapists with a warning because they might get violent? How about assault and battery? Maybe murderers? Where do you draw the line as to which person should be arrested for breaking a law that is not victimless?

  10. In the Army (and from what I understand the Marine Corp too, not sure about the Navy and Air Force) we are not discouraged from individual actions or creative thinking. Quite the opposite, in fact were taught to think on our feet and take personal initiative to complete the mission. We are taught teamwork and mission first, but the military actually goes out of its way to recruit people with high intelligence and critical thinking skills. Recruiters get bonus points for recruiting what are termed “golf recruits” individuals who have scored extremely high on the ASVABs. From my understanding most police forces actually try to weed out those with higher IQs. It is a common misconception that the military wants automortrons, at least not the US military which prides itself in our professionalism, esprit de corp and technical ability. Yes, we do break down and rebuild, buy the main aim is not to create robots but to reduce selfishness and to instill teamwork. Being a member of a functional team doesn’t mean losing self identity or initiative but actually benefits from those qualities when properly applied.

    1. Maybe if we taught police more like soldiers we would have less problems. Not combat tactics but the mindset of doing the job and self sacrifice and putting others before self and mission first. Their mission is to serve the public good by targeting criminal behavior. Most of these publicized police killings and abuse are not committed by veterans but by wannabees. Guys who think taking down a drug house is the same as clearing Fallujah. In the military we may bitch about ROEs but we understand and obey them for the most part. Yes, I know there are examples of when the military has acted badly. We understand personal judgement and responsibility for the most part (the first week in basic is all about learning to accept personal responsibility and not make excuses, as my drill sergeants love to state “the maximum effective range of an excuse is exactly 0 meters, now beat your face”).

      1. Even during Desert Storm we couldn’t just bash a POW’s brains in or sit on his neck for 8 minutes. And no one I knew would have been excited at the idea of doing so.

        1. Hell a friend of mine was a MP in Desert Storm guarding POWs. He told stories about how the POWs were allowed more water rations than US troops and how when one escaped they did not even bother looking for him. Instead two or three days later he showed back up at the front gate asking to be let back in.

        2. Also, the Army had a mindset and training doctorine that every soldier is a leader and for the most part in my experience actually fairly operates with that mindset. Privates, especially E-3s, are routinely given opportunities to lead. Often they start out as small and grow as they advance in rank.

    2. *gold recruits.

  11. Prosecutors, judges, politicians, sheriffs and dog catchers are elected office holders. Perhaps the public could benefit from a more active role on the selection of its peace keepers.

    1. Elections for cops?

      Imagine the police force that would produce!

      1. They might not shoot or strangle unarmed suspects.

    2. “”Prosecutors, judges, politicians, sheriffs and dog catchers are elected office holders.””

      The public is pretty shitty with selecting those.
      Just sayin.

      1. The Solution:

        Would it not in that case be simpler
        for the government
        To dissolve the people
        And elect another?

        Berthold Brecht

  12. There are a couple of things the author doesn’t seem to grasp about police training and about military boot camp…

    First, one of the primary purposes of boot camp and of a boot camp style model of police training is stress inoculation. The boot camp experience is designed to stress the recruit out, to test them, to make sure they are capable of handling themselves even under high levels of pressure. This isn’t just necessary on a battlefield or during violent police encounters, but is necessary in most police encounters and the ability to handle stress and maintain ones bearing is hugely important for keeping situations on the street from spiraling out of control.

    Second, the author is being disingenuous or is uneducated about modern American police training if he does an entire article about the subject and does not once mention ‘Field Training’, aka the FTO or PTO phase a new officer goes through before being trusted as a full fledged officer. After graduating the academy, the officer is then placed under the watchful supervision of an experienced officer while that new officer responds to calls and does the job. The field training officer, or FTO, provides feedback, coaching, and evaluation to the trainee over the course of months, and the program goes through multiple increasingly difficult phases. In the first phase, it may be responding to simple things such as traffic stops and shoplifting investigations, and will eventually work up the most complex cases such as sexual assault and armed robbery.

    Here’s the kicker… the FTO program for a new officer is almost always considered immensely more challenging than the police academy if the department is doing its job. The FTO program also weeds out a considerable number of people that are either incapable or no longer interested in being a police officer after doing the job on the street. It is in FTO where an officer is further trained in and expected to demonstrate complex problem solving, interpersonal skills, and ability to deescalate high risk situations.

    The evaluations that the training officer keeps are quite possibly the biggest clue on if someone belongs as a police officer or not. A good department isn’t afraid of dropping a trainee if he does not perform well in FTO, but bad departments that are more concerned with putting bodies on the street rather than quality will pass almost anybody through FTO. The Minneapolis Police Department is known to do the latter, which is why former officer turned murderer Mohamed Noor was known for being an anxiety ridden screw up from his FTO program, but the department let him pass anyways.

    What I am getting at is that actual high standards for officers is what will fix American policing, not just adjustments to their uniform or a different style of training.

    1. Well, that’s what Derek Chauvin was doing–teaching the rooks that you can’t believe anything a suspect says, and just sit on them until they stop moving.

      How’d that field training work out?

      1. He did state that the Minneapolis PD FTO system is broken and bad. So…

      2. But Derek Chauvin wasn’t dealing with some random suspect. He was dealing with someone, whom he knew and, by one – retracted – report had personal animosity towards.
        Notice how that end of the story quickly evaporated?
        The last thing the supporters of the rioting, looting, vandalism, murder, etc. needed was the idea that it wasn’t random police brutality or racism, but a cop, using his position to settle a score.

  13. “Reason” finally publishes something reasonable. But you missed a couple of points. First, the “sheepdog” thing — a shepherd would never tolerate a sheepdog that killed or abused the sheep. Second, cops only _think_ they’ve been trained in the use of force. If that were true, why does the National Guard get called in when real force has to be used? Cops get cursory training in choke holds, takedown moves, and restraints, and then think they’re 33rd degree John Clarks. Policing will never be truly demilitarized until all the mall ninjas are retired.

    1. And until the police and the non veteran public at large realize that their idea of what the military is is completely distorted. I like the mall ninja reference. To many cops are Tackleberry from the police academy movies. Caricatures of what they think the military is, not what it is really like. In the Army we were taught that sometimes the best reaction to an ambush is to fall back. A near side ambush requires immediate, hostile assault but a far side ambush it is better to bound back and disengage. Sometimes you are a SEAL reconnaissance unit that gets busted by civilian non-combatants, but your best action is to let them go, knowing that they will report your position to the local Taliban commander, insuring that your team will likely be wiped out as a result.

      1. Let’s not get into the fairy tale that was Lone Survivor. Bad enough that idiot Murphy got his team nearly wiped out, but their stupidity got the QRF Chinook snuffed as well.

        It didn’t matter what they did with the herdsmen. That team was already compromised; the herdsmen just helped in flushing the SEAL team to the ambush site.

        1. That wasn’t the point. The point was that the team leader let the herdsman go, knowing they could/would likely compromise their mission. It doesn’t matter what Murphy’s actions were or were not, it matters the decision he made at that moment without knowing if they were already compromised. And as for what happened with Operation Redhook, there are multiple conflicting stories. The one survivor doesn’t seem to blame Murphy. The Afghanis, surprisingly claim that their casualties were light and they already knew the SEAL teams hide location. I am not sure they are reliable sources.

          1. There’s video from the Afghan side of the aftermath. There’s also a photo of Luttrell after the fight, taken by Gulab, I think, that shows all of his kit intact and unused. I don’t think he got off more than a shot or two, before trying to dive for cover, and ending up falling off the incredibly steep hill, into the Korengal. Running your team into a L-shaped ambush anchored by one or two belt-feds will do that.

            I like Ed Darrack’s “Victory Point” a starter for figuring out what happened. Admittedly, he was writing from the Marines’ perspective, and they had some axes to grind about how JSOC took away their operation.

            What likely happened with the herdsmen, is that Patrick Robinson, the guy who co-wrote the book, borrowed the story of the ‘herdsmen compromise then all hell breaks loose’ from what happened with ODA-525 in Desert Storm, where that actually did happen. Local kids, IIRC. The Green Berets let em go, the kids ran home and blabbed, and a company plus of Iraqi motor-rifle infantry showed up.

            The whole Lone Survivor bit with the voting, and ‘what do we do?’ was strange. They didn’t already have a plan for their OP being compromised? They didn’t try to restrain the tribesmen in any way, tie them to a tree with some of that ubiquitous 550 cord they all seem to carry?

  14. By treating cops like service members, militarized policing reinforces the idea that the police exist above and apart from civil society, and invites cops to see themselves as essentially different from—and superior to—ordinary citizens. electrician mn

  15. But as a former serviceman, I don’t see cops as treated as servicemen (definitely not held to the same standard). If anything they are treated as a false narrative of what servicemen are.

  16. so lets stop hiring on ex-military…and their PTSD

    they have a mission mentality and a band of brothers macho taint.

    their shit’s gotten old

    1. You obviously have no idea what PTSD is, only what Hwood and bad lawyers claim it is.

      Military members CAN make good cops, if they’re given proper rules of engagement, not “treat everyone as a hostile,” propaganda that’s plastered everywhere.

    2. Almost every single case of police abuse and shooting unarmed suspects have not been veterans. In fact, veterans are less likely to use deadly force than non veteran policeman according to many studies. But keep pushing the false narrative that we all have ptsd and are loose cannons waiting to kill again. You know that is entirely a Hollywood creation. And you don’t even understand what the Band of Brothers mentality really is about, as your post clearly demonstrates. It is about sacrificing for the others not protecting them in a knee jerk manner. It is about putting their personal safety, and the mission, before your own safety. It is about moving under fire, not because you want to, but because it benefits everyone. This is opposite of the mindset that important thing is that every cop gets home safe mentality. It is that the safety of others and the mission is more important than your personal safety and comfort. Look at what most bronze stars, silver stars, DSC, MOH are awarded for. It is for putting your own personal safety aside to protect others and to get the mission done. That seems to me to be exactly what you would want in a cop, someone who puts other people’s safety before their own.

      1. “In fact, veterans are less likely to use deadly force than non veteran policeman according to many studies. ”

        The book Generation Kill (you may have heard of the HBO miniseries based on it.) had a very interesting section on dealing with cops as soldiers. The Rolling Stone writer who wrote the book, was embedded with a Marine Reconnaissance Platoon. I forget whether it was Alpha or Bravo. Anyway, they operated fairly independently.

        One bit towards the end, they operated in conjunction with a National Guard Marine Recon Platoon, Delta, that was composed of mostly LA County Sheriff’s Deputies and city cops. Delta was insanely trigger happy and eager to shoot damned near everything, and indeed nearly got some of the other Marines killed. Keep in mind, for the previous 200 pages, I’d just read of these Marines getting into firefight after firefight, and prevailing. Lots of combat. And these guys thought the deployed LA cops were way over the line.

        1. Probably Reserve Marines not National Guard. Just a little correction. There are no National Guard Marines, all National Guard are Army, except Air National Guard, which is Air Force.

          1. It did sound strange as I wrote it. Reserve Marines then.

            Didn’t feel like digging out the book from wherever I stashed it to double check. The Delta platoon in the book were definitely part-timers though from Los Angeles area law enforcement.

    3. I’d rather make people like you walk point in bare feet and 60 pounds of battle rattle in Iraq.

  17. No, let’s have police dress in REI hiking pants and Eddy Bauer short leave Ts…then we’ll teach them how to speak calmly and ask gentle questions…they can bring their own dirt and grovel before the perps if they choose.

  18. There’s something to be said when you have soldiers – practical killing machines – who may even follow the most suicidal of orders by not killing an enemy even at their doorstep, and cops – law and order keepers – who would kill you a mile away when you’re not even a threat. How the hell is that not backwards?

    1. Because as I’ve stated what we are taught as soldiers is team and mission first. Our personal safety and comfort are not as important. Police have been taught for several decades the important thing is for every cop to make it home safe.

      1. And the public has also been taught this.

  19. Mr Rogers doesn’t want to be a cop, nor do you want him responding to your 911 call. That said, you don’t want the responding LEO shooting your dog and giving you the cuff n’stuff treatment.

  20. “We” need to stop paying the police with stolen money.
    If I did business in the same manner as government does, and forced strangers to give me money, would you consider me a criminal?
    “Nothing is so contagious as example; and we never do any great good or evil which does not produce its like.” ~ Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)

  21. I don’t know. Dressing all cops in purple Croc’s, bright pink shorts, and rainbow tees with sparkles would be worth a laugh or three; and one of our broadest root problems is our undue deference to those in government. Making everyone in government objects of ridicule would, actually, go a long way toward righting our culture. America was founded in revolution to establish the individual’s primacy over government; yet, we have allowed ourselves to be, again, made subservient to it.

  22. No surprise no one here has mentioned the nightwatchman/militia model. What police was before both the ‘slave patrol’ (basically professional police paid by the wealthy to protect the wealthy) model and the ‘standing army’ model.

    For the same reasons that a militia protects against the overreach of a standing army, it can protect against a police force that no longer sees itself as part of the community. It’s almost impossible for that attitude to infect a militia because while they will spend some time serving, they will spend most of their time as the object of it. Because people donate their time, the police force isn’t hijacked by those who have money but don’t want to donate time.

    1. I know, right?
      If every household had a person with a gun who knew how to use that gun, then why have a professional standing police army?

      There would need to be investigators as fact-finders for purposes of courts of law, but no need for heavily armed wannabe soldiers to be Judge Dredd stereotypes.

  23. The police need to protect themselves with the strongest defensive gear and most powerful offencive weapons because the skateboarders are high on marijuana.

  24. Our civil police agencies have become militarized in the last few decades, but have become increasingly bureaucratized for the last century or longer, and no one seems to worry about that. One hundred and sixty years ago most US law enforcement officers were either elected by the voters, or were appointed by officials directly responsible to the voters. No one seems to care that the voters now have less control over policing, in spite of everyone and his brother being in favor of “democracy”.

  25. Whatever became of the Peace Officer, both the real person and the concept?

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