SARGE: Thin Blue Line

I’ve noticed a great deal of “whizzin’ and whinin’” about the apparent militarization of law enforcement entities across the nation. From the wearing of concealed body armor to the point of accepting military hardware allowing SWAT members to approach a scene closer than would be advisable without it, the police are being criticized: vociferously.

As a retired cop with 30 years of experience in the field as a patrol officer, SWAT Team member and as a supervisor eventually finishing my service as a School Resource Officer charged with protective services in a school system, I feel compelled to address the issue.

So here it goes: you obviously have NO idea what you’re talking about.

It strikes me as interesting the general public has developed this idea the police are becoming more militaristic in their appearance and tactical conduct. This is true but the criticism doesn’t address the increased militancy of the public when coming into contact with the police. More and more often the police are met not with civil disobedience but with active, violent assault, battery and attempted homicide in many cases. As an example, in the state of Louisiana, it is acceptable for a person to actively resist an UNLAWFUL ARREST. That sounds okay doesn’t it? But who decides at the scene what is an unlawful arrest?

The officer who’s made a determination based on evidence of the commission of a crime and while in contact proximity, may decide (as defined by Supreme Court rulings) to execute the arrest on-the-spot to avoid the escape of the alleged violator. The accused may be diametrically opposed to his arrest because he feels he’s the victim and should be allowed the right to NOT be arrested. Therefore he decides he’ll actively resist the arrest rather than allow the courts to decide the issue at a later time. This is where it gets dicey.

The law enforcement officer is allowed to use the necessary level of force to conduct the arrest. This “necessary level of force” is expected to be elevated by the officer to a point of one articulated level of force above that of the aggressor/arrestee. This normally follows the following course of action or others similar to it:

  1. Officer Presence
  2. Loud verbal commands for compliance
  3. SOFT empty hand escort/control techniques
  4. Hard empty hand escort/control techniques
  5. Leverage tools
  6. Impact tools (night stick etc.)
  7. Lethal Force (firearms)

The officer’s course of action is decided normally by the actions of the accused. But it must be noted the accused becomes a greater threat to the officer as the distance (contact gap) closes and the officer reaches out to take control of the accused. If the accused pushes the officer, the officer is allowed to demand compliance loudly – “STOP RESISTING!” repeated as the officer tries to gain control of the person. Then if the resistance stops the officer moves to control through handcuffing and removing the accused from the scene. If the accused continues the resistance, the level of force used by the officer is allowed to move upward to allow the officer the chance to defend as well as move to a point of control of the accused.

This is a “simple” case in point. It’s simple because it doesn’t contain the increased dynamics possible such as a drug-affected combatant or psychologically confused and violent individual acting out. Is the accused executing a violent crime and threatening innocents with violence? Is he armed with a concealed weapon(s)? Are there more than one assailant?

Now take into consideration the events unfolding in Ferguson MO. The people are rioting because they believe a young man was shot and killed without cause. I wasn’t there and suggest everybody stop with the emotion and start developing facts from the autopsy and the fair and impartial conduct of an investigative body that’s neutral in the matter: State Police, FBI whatever. I don’t suggest Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson be allowed on the investigation team because they’re only in it for the notoriety and the money in my opinion. But local civic leaders could be advised of the course of the investigation ONCE IT IS FINISHED.

We’ve seen video of helmet clad, armor wearing, nightstick carrying, fully armed police manning a riot control skirmish line in the streets. Question: would you dress in any other way when people are throwing rocks and allegedly shooting at police helicopters?  Would you rather approach a group of people violently acting out and launching weapons from the cover of an armored personnel carrier knowing your opponents may have possession of firearms and gas-bombs; or not? Would you rather have an AR-15 carbine available as you approach a house to investigate a report of a Domestic Disturbance and knowing this is the (pick a number) time you’ll have to fight this guy/gal as they resisted arrest after pounding on their spouse?

Police officers don’t hold the same respect they once did. It’s not because they haven’t earned it. The courts have found themselves restrained by findings developed from higher courts and limited space in penal institutions. The criminals can leave the jail before the officer has the paperwork and reports completed. This turnstile format of arrest and control has left many thinking they’re right to resist because of a lack of consequences judiciously balanced against the conduct of the crime.

Yes. The police are appearing more militaristic. But as a man who’s been shot at, beaten to the ground and hospitalized because of people’s direct and violent opposition to my trying to do my job, I can say the police are more militaristic in RESPONSE to the increased militancy of the criminal element.

You may not think you’re a criminal, but I’ve arrested sweet looking grandparents when they molested children in their care. I’ve arrested parents who’ve beaten their children so badly they were hospitalized; but the parent thought they were merely disciplining the child with a battered face and broken bones. I’ve fought teenagers to the ground when they were more interested in showing their classmates they were “men” and could beat a cop anytime they wanted. Then the parents went to bat for the kid screaming “my kid wouldn’t do that” until the brat went and beat the hell out of them at home.

My point is this: just what does a “criminal” look like?

So if my former colleagues dress in a manner you find intimidating I suggest you get over it. They only want to go home at the end of the day just like you.

Thanks for listening.



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