Civilians vis-à-vis Citizens

When I served in the Army, I was not a civilian. Before my service and afterwards, I have been a civilian. My brother, who worked as a policeman and never served in the military, has spent his whole life as a civilian.

<rant>One of the adverse consequences of SWAT teams and warrior-mentality cops, especially those operating in jurisdictions which have suppressed Second Amendment rights, is to think that they are somehow set apart for the rest of civil society. They tend to place a divide between the police and “civilians.” Well, they’re civilians too, and all of us are also citizens. Moreover, civilian police are public employees who work for the citizenry as a whole. To the extent that there is a divide, it’s between the cops as employees and the rest of us as employers.</rant>

Of course, the military has its own law enforcement agencies. My father served as a Special Agent in Corps of Intelligence Police before WW2 and the Counter Intelligence Corps during the war. However, he never served as a civilian law enforcement officer.

2 thoughts on “Civilians vis-à-vis Citizens

  1. One of the issues (problems) is that military camp is designed to produce a human who will perform without too much thinking about what is ordered. After all, if every single soldier starts thinking about what they’re being ordered to do, then it’s really gonna screw up the outcome of a battle. They need to react when they’re told to do something.

    After military duty is finished, a human with those military qualities is easily moved into bureaucratically directed police work. The eventual conflict of outcomes arises when that militarily trained mind responds with military responses to a civilian situation which requires human civil rights as first consideration.

    As much as Radley Balko may seem a bit left, he has very good insights and writings about the problem of militarizing police for civilian law enforcement. And that should concern us all. If a civilian police force will immediately do whatever they’re ordered to do, then that force can be used by whomever is doing the ordering to do whatever they wish.

  2. Hear, Hear!

    I’ve been saying this for a long time and every time I post a comment to that effect, I get several cops telling me why it’s OK for them to consider us all “civilians” and them….something else.

    That is the very mentality that creates the “us vs them” attitude.

    It’s all about the mission. In the military, the mission is to defeat the enemy and destroy their will and ability to resist. Killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure is not part of the mission, but is considered acceptable collateral damage if it supports the mission. The mission is to kill the enemy and destroy their weapons…if civilians and civilian infrastructure are in the way: acceptable collateral damage.

    Being a cop used to be about serving the public. About placing oneself in harm’s way to protect others. Protecting and serving citizens WAS the mission. Harming and killing citizens occurred but was rightly considered a failure and great pains were taken to avoid it, even if it meant compromising the safety and even the lives of the Police Officers involved.

    In the past 30 years or so (about the time a lot of emphasis started being placed on accepting and recruiting female officers…coincidence?), the emphasis has shifted and the primary mission of the police is now “officer safety”. If protecting the safety of officers means employing measures that place the safety of “civilians” at risk…well, that’s just acceptable collateral damage. That’s how you end up with police firing over a hundred rounds at a pickup truck being used to deliver newspapers because it vaguely matches the description of a vehicle that was used in a crime. That’s how you end up with dozens of cops from multiple agencies standing by outside as a murderous psychopath rampages through a school unhindered. That’s how you end up with innocent people shot and killed when the police break down the doors of the wrong house in the middle of the night. That’s how you end up with people shot while sitting in their cars because they reached for the ID that the cop just asked them for.

    When the mission is no longer protecting and serving the citizens, harm to “civilians” just becomes another instance of acceptable collateral damage and that’s just standard operating procedure employed to ensure that all the cops go home safe at the end of the day.

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