Monday, September 26, 2016

Thinking Like a Grunt

The Army trained me to shoot at anything that moves.  I walked through field courses in the northwest woods where humanoid shapes would pop up from the brush and I would fire my M-16 blanks.  The training was to create a conditioned response.  In war everything is a threat and the best way to fight that threat is to fire quickly.

That attitude might seem rational in the twisted logic of war.  It has absolutely no place in civilian society.  Yet, the repeated shootings of black Americans by police makes me wonder if police now think like infantry soldiers.  Instead of a foreign enemy police see threats and react with force.  Sometimes, they cannot even say why they fired their weapons.

I understand that police often face life-threatening situations and must make spit-second decisions.  But so many of the shootings don't come close to that level of threat and might not have required lethal force.  Yes, I am second-guessing the police.  I do so because they are acting in my name and I expect them to be as well-versed in de-escalation as in the use of firearms. Fewer people are likely to end up dead.

The infantry soldier's mission is to kill.  The police officer's mission is to save lives.  The police should know the difference and be prepared to use judgment and skill before resorting to force.


This doesn't begin to address racism in policing practices.  For that I recommend the Bad Tux tutorial for police officers.

Also, I don't shoot at anything that moves these days but I am always on the look out.