Isn't it indeed possible that cops are more than warriors ... that we
need to learn from war and learn from warriors and apply the lessons learned
to law enforcement and to peacekeeping? Isn't it possible that we need to
grow beyond the warrior paradigm?
I started in this industry when I was 20 ... 26 years later, I find that
I'm still learning, but that there are some things that are continually
revalidated by my experiences.
As a cop, I know that for all that warriors are, we are more than
Our influence, our control, our presence, our force is not delivered
from 40,000 feet, nor from 4 miles, nor from 400 feet ... most frequently,
it is delivered from four feet to contact.
We spend most of our careers continually being reimmersed (and reinoculated)
in life-threatening situations where the law frequently authorizes us to
use deadly force, but we instead find ourselves skillfully, passionately
de-escalating situations and taking adversaries into custody, using discretion
and skill to bring confrontations to non-violent conclusionsmuch more
frequently than is documented and much more frequently than we give ourselves
We arrest people. As the definition bears out, we stop them. We stop
them sometimes by using deadly force, but much more frequently, by skillfuly
and sometimes desperately using threats of deadly force (demonstrated readiness
to use deadly force), force multipliers, less-than-deadly force, elements
of tactical advantage, verbal and non-verbal communications skills, in
combination with officer presence skills (cover, concealment, shielding,
variable distancing, relative positioning). We often do all this while
simultaneously processing a multitude of information within a very compressed
We need to embrace the spirit, the principles, and the methods of the
warrior so that we will seek out our adversary, close with our adversary,
and win over our adversary. At the same time, we recognize certain pitfalls
inherent in a narrow view of the warrior when the adversary is in one instant
the enemy, but in the span of the next instant has become the
penitentsurrendering-in-whole, surrendering-in-part, or freezing in
place. As peace officers, we must call upon the warrior-based skills, but
also call upon a wide array of other related skills.
We do not have the luxury of being indemnified nor justified by rules
of engagement or by ops orders which may have been expertly formed weeks,
days, or even hours prior to the confrontation. Despite the preparation,
rehearsal, and practice imbedded in pre-planned uses of force, the most important
set of facts are those occurring at the precise moment that the individual
officer confronts those perceived facts. No shielding is afforded by orders
or by chain-of-command.
Peace officers work within "ranges of reasonableness" (my quotes), the
parameters of which are defined by the overlapping justifications imbedded
in case law, statutory law, policies, training, experience, knowledge, skill,
discretion, culture, perception, perspective, distortions, technological
limitations, individual moral codes, and the immediate, fluid, moment-by-moment
realities of each individual confrontation.
In my sphere of influence as a peace officer, it is as likely as not
that I will in some way know my adversary, not in the Sun Tzu-sense, but
in the interpersonal sense. We will have had some sort of direct or vicarious
contacts by virtue of having crossed paths in the law enforcement context
or in some other community-based context.
I can find no comfort or emotional shielding afforded by anonymity. On-duty
or off-duty, many know who I am and who my family members are. I must live
with all of my decisions, as must my spouse and my children.
If deadly force were only justified to kill (an admittedly myopic warrior
focus), some aspects of this job would be much simpler. However, in my role,
deadly force is only justified when necessary to defend human lifeit's
use is not an entitlement that is triggered solely by the actions or anticipated
actions of my adversary, it is an option to individually envoke a duty imposed
on me by law, the use of which must be justified under
As a peace officer, once I have used any level of force, I must take
the subject into custody, care for his injuries, protect a use-of-force scene,
possibly protect a related crime scene, control the subject's family members,
control witnesses, give a brief oral account of what occurred, and eventually
try to compress the distorted recollections of the realities of a
four-dimensional event onto a two-dimensional sheet of paper.
Most of us, irregardless of the size agency we work for, operate as
individual officers, not following the predetermined activities of a bomb
run, the digits of launch coordinates, the delivery of a single precise round
at impersonal distance, nor the clamor of a team-based mission ... we work
alone, we initially confront situations alone, and we make life-altering
decisions without benefit of an immediate superior's pre-action oversight.
All critiques are after-action critiques.
Until technology enables me to handcuff you from afar, I will need to
arrest you ... face-to-face, man-to-man. This means that, when we fight,
when I call upon those elements of the warrior within, I will be close enough
to smell you, to touch you, to strike you, to cut you, to hear you, to plead
with you, to wrestle with you, to shoot you, to handcuff you, to bleed on
you and you on me, to tend to your wounds, to hear your last words. Our meeting
may be brief, but I will have had a more intense contact with you, my unwanted
adversary, than with most of my loved ones.
As a peace officer, I don't have the warrior luxury of villifying or
depersonalizing you as "the enemy." At some rapidly-arriving point along
this continuum of confrontation, you needed to be stopped and I was there
to stop you ... once the confrontation is concluded, you again become a
citizena citizen in jail or prison; a citizen in the hospital; a citizen
in the morgue; or, a citizen returned to the street by due process.
The incongruencies embraced by peace officers are orders-of-magnitude
more complex than those of peacetime warriors: show me people who put their
lives and their livelihoods on the line for others (that much we share in
common with our warrior brothers and sisters), but who also retain the skills
to individually exercise decisiveness balanced with patience; compassion
balanced with power; the ability to fight criminals balanced with the ability
to treat the same criminals with dignity and respect; the ability to provide
service to the least-deserving, but most needful members of our society balanced
with servicing the needs of the silent public; the ability to arrest a suspect
balanced with comforting a victim; the ability to console the mourning balanced
with the ability to take a life; the ability to empathize balanced with the
commitment to due process of law ... not a warrior, a peace officer.
Do we have anything in common with the warrior? Absolutely. We need to
learn from the warrior, evaluate the lessons to be learned, and apply that
which makes sense for our roles.
However, we must also embrace the reality that peace officers are much
more than warriors. Do we want to portray ourselves as warriors on the witness
stand? Trust me when I say that the warrior persona will not be valued by
a grand jury nor by any other jury. Why not? Because it is not valued under
the law. Under the law, peace officers and their actions are expected to
be reflections of reasonableness. The warrior persona might endure the scrutiny
of UCMJ due process, but it won't last five minutes in a state or federal
district courtroom, in an internal affairs hearing, or before a civilian
We swear an oath to God to uphold the law, to protect and defend our
country and its citizens, to be accountable to a constitution, to be guided
by principles, to live lives of service, to make sacrifices for others ...
we stand for something greater than ourselves ... we share at least that
much in common with the noblest of our fellow warriors.
But it's not about merely sharpening the warrior's edge ... it's not
about marketing gimmics or gadgets ... it's about selecting the best-suited
people for the job, training them to win, equipping them to win, leading
them to win, developing them to win, and supporting them throughout their
careers to keep learning and to keep winningas peace officers.