When Cops Think of Themselves as Soldiers 

When Cops Think of Themselves as Soldiers 
Posted by FoM on April 15, 2000 at 17:41:32 PT
By George J. Bryjak
Source: Orange County Register
From their inception in the 1840s, urban police departments have been organized along a military model. Widespread public drunkenness, high crime rates, race and ethnic riots and labor strife that often turned violent resulted in law enforcement agencies that 'patrolled' city streets on a continual basis.
There is nothing inherently wrong with structuring police departments along military lines; agencies so designed exist in many democratic countries committed to the 'rule of law.' However, a problem arises when an organization with a militaristic orientation entrusted with significant power comes to believe that it is literally engaged in combat. Over the past 30 to 35 years almost every administration at the federal level has waged its version of the 'war on crime' and 'war on drugs,' a philosophy that has been embraced by many big-city police departments. Patrick Murphy, who headed police commissions in three cities (Detroit, New York and Washington, D.C.) stated, 'There is no doubt that this war-on-drugs rhetoric is part of the problem ... raiding all these crack houses, more guns on the street, cops getting automatics. ... It has cops so psyched up they think they're in combat.' The difference between city streets and a war zone is that, in the former, police officers encounter fellow citizens with constitutional rights while, in the latter, soldiers seek out and attempt to destroy the enemy. According to the testimony of recently convicted LAPD officer Rafael Perez, it is clear that some members of Rampart CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) thought of themselves and their jobs more in terms of soldiers than peace officers. Police officers who take the life of another human being in the line of duty typically experience remorse, and in some cases are so psychologically distraught by the experience that it precludes them from continuing their careers in law enforcement. Perez stated that the night unarmed Juan Saldana was shot and killed he and two other officers 'celebrated' in a bar until 6 or 7 o'clock the next morning. While this behavior seems incomprehensible to most people, it is understandable in the context that Saldana and other suspects were viewed as the enemy. Although it is true that criminally active gang members (as well as law-violating non- gang members) are enemies of 'law and order,' they are not adversaries in a military sense, to be dispatched as 'targets of opportunity.' Over and above teaching individuals a variety of soldiering skills, military boot camp is primarily about changing people. After a lifetime of being taught that human life is sacred, recruits learn that they must kill their adversary on command. One way of accomplishing this deadly goal is by dehumanizing the enemy; that is, by redefining him as something less than human; an animal, for example. Once a designated group loses its status as human beings, members of that collectivity can be destroyed with few if any moral and ethical ramifications for the killers. My guess is that some members of Rampart CRASH internalized this aspect of the military ethos, hardly surprising in a specialized unit with a strong sense of purpose and pride. It is worth noting that this dehumanization process is made easier when the enemy are members of a different racial or ethnic group, a situation that is not uncommon concerning the composition of urban police forces and gangs. During the Vietnam War some American soldiers would attach a playing card to the bodies of Viet Cong casualties. For example, one Marine reconnaissance team's 'death card' was an ace of spades adorned with a skull and crossbones. While Rampart CRASH officers could not tag the individuals they shot with cards, they did the next best thing via presenting their fellows with plaques at shooting parties that featured playing cards with bullet holes through them.One officer noted that while this practice might appear 'barbaric,' 'it's good for morale' and that individuals 'talk about the shootings, how they're heroes or whatever.' And just as it is better to kill one's foe than wound him on the battlefield, CRASH awards with a black card signifying death were more prestigious than red cards indicating that someone was wounded. Shooting parties not only exacerbate an already formidable 'we/they' perspective regarding the police and gang members, but are likely to facilitate additional shootings. People typically strive to repeat behavior for which they have been praised, especially when this adulation comes from significant others in a close-knit quasi-military unit. Rampart CRASH is such a unit.The military has always been a closed society given wide latitude by the federal government regarding its internal affairs. For much of the 20th century, urban police departments have been granted that same privilege. When and where local governments have attempted to make law enforcement agencies accountable to civilian review boards, they (the governments) have met with fierce resistance from police administrators.Until World War I, urban police departments were often the handmaidens of 'machine' politics, with too many cops little more than self-serving gangsters in thoroughly corrupt systems of bureaucratic patronage. Today, big-city police departments are largely independent of any meaningful civilian oversight in their everyday work. Unfortunately, as the LAPD scandal has revealed, some officers are modern day gangster/soldiers operating from a militaristic world view that is more in line with totalitarian than democratic societies. THE WRITER: Mr. Bryjak is a sociology professor at the University of San Diego. He is a ex-Marine.NewsHawk: Doc-HawkWar On Some Drugs April 16, 2000Copyright 1999 The Orange County RegisterPlease send comments to ocregister CannabisNews & MapInc. Articles On Rampart & Police Related Items:Convictions of 9 More Voided in Scandal Chief Calls for Mass Dismissal -Tainted Cases Reduces Sentence for Drug Dealer's Comprehensive Search Of Rampart Articles:
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Comment #13 posted by dddd on April 17, 2000 at 04:45:01 PT
I must agree that it is not easy to find anything humorous concerning the drug war. I guess I've been one of the "enemy" so long,I've been seasoned into a resiliance that can appear disrespectful and irreverant. So I hope no one will continue to be offended by my abstract comments,or jocular follies of the past.If I cant chuckle occasionally,then I end up crying.Thanx Again....Sincerely...dddd
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Comment #12 posted by dddd on April 17, 2000 at 04:31:12 PT
FoM;Thank You! Like you,I know very little about what a "chat",involves.Whatever it is,I would be honored to be included as a West Coastesque chat person.............dddd
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Comment #11 posted by Doc-Hawk on April 17, 2000 at 02:11:07 PT:
Hi FoM,Sorry it took so long to read the thread....Busy weekend.I have (probably) observer's email.Would love to get together.We are all in the east.We could use the mapinc chat room....or even voice chat. The voice chat is easy and really cool. It also allows text at the same time.Peace,Doc
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on April 16, 2000 at 20:42:32 PT
Thanks dddd
Thanks dddd,I appreciate your honesty. I really do. I guess I am too serious. I don't find anything really funny, ever, about the drug war so as long as I am in this work type mode I am so focussed on what I am doing I miss a lot of humor I'm sure. I laugh with my husband and friends on the political board but here I am serious. It is the only place I've seen that seems to be that way so it is nice to have a place to be as we are. Don't you think? Maybe if the three of us get this talk organized we might be able to figure a time when we all could chat at the same time. My chat is a freebee and it probably is all rusted shut or something LOL! so I don't know how it works because I have only used it a couple of times even though I'd had it for around two years. I'll have to go get the cob webs out of it before anyone comes! Take care and thanks again!PS: We will try to set a chat up soon. I don't go to chats very often and then only DrugSense because of what I do here and my life's obligations so now and then a chat could be a nice break.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #9 posted by dddd on April 16, 2000 at 20:22:59 PT:
You all are the best.I'm the buffoon who started out as that Elliot Fleener guy,not to mention numerous other 'nom de plumes',(Goldbergstein,etc.) I am in Southern CA.,Orange county. I will still post as dddd,but I wanted you to know that I love and respect all that is happening here,and I would be honored,and welcome anything,or any way I could help in forwarding the cause. Sincerely Dana
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on April 16, 2000 at 20:04:16 PT
Got an idea!
Great Great Great! I read your comments earlier and we are having thunderstorms so I'm on and off line but I couldn't figure out how to do this and then duh! it dawned on me. I'll email kaptinemo with a time and I'll send the chat along and he can forward it to Doc and observer. I have Doc-Hawk's email and the kapts but someone would need to send it to observer for me.( I might have observers) If that is ok I'll send an email later on tonight or in the morning and maybe we can get together for a short hello session. Cool! Let me know if this will work!Peace, FoM!
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Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on April 16, 2000 at 18:13:09 PT:
Time zones
FoM, I live about 40 miles NW of Washington DC, which is on EDST, now. But my participation here has gotten sporadic; I work very late hours now, and the commute is a female dog;)But I do try to keep up with what's happening, here. I'm gratified to 'see' new monikers dropping in and adding their two-cents, pence, rubles, whatever; it proves as you have said, that this place is growing. You needn't worry about your efficacy; just heal up and get better.It would be very interesting indeed if we could arrange a chat. I'm hardly giving away state secrets when I say that I too have learned quite a lot from you, Observer, the Good Doctor, and so many others who have graced this place with a virtual presence. I've only got a few (admittedly arcane) pieces of the puzzle, and am as prone to informational tunnel-vision as the next person. A meeting of the minds would be most welcome. So, let's set a date, shall we? Weekday? Weekend? (Better for me) Times? I'm open to suggestions.
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Comment #6 posted by observer on April 16, 2000 at 17:08:39 PT
sounds good
The late night one would be best for me but will try to stop by whenever it is held.Kudos to FoM and kaptinemo and Doc-Hawk and everyone for their work! 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on April 16, 2000 at 16:26:34 PT
Thanks Kaptinemo!
Hi kaptinemo! Thanks for your response! Cannabis News was opened on December 1, 1998 and it has grown remarkable. I do not, nor ever will, take its growth for granted. You know I had major dental surgery a few weeks ago and I just am concerned because sometimes I just don't feel very well yet and am worried that I am missing or overlooking articles that you and the others would like to discuss. Cannabis News is both news and comments and both are needed for a successful site. You, observer and Doc-Hawk have really impressed me with your knowledge and I have a great deal of respect for you and them. If Cannabis News keeps growing I will need people that have the best interest of Cannabis News at heart to help me think about what to do to be better. I only know what I have figured out and am always open to certain people's advice and would appreciate yours and theirs. I am on ET and the only time that is really bad for me is in the morning when I look for news to post but that slows up most days by 1 pm or so. I can talk late at night or afternoon or evening. If this is agreeable to you three you can decide on a time and I'll post my chat and we can have a talk and I really would enjoy just a nice talk too. Peace, FoM!
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on April 16, 2000 at 14:51:58 PT:
I've no objections
Just keep in mind we may be living in different time zones.
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on April 15, 2000 at 23:01:21 PT
One More Thing
observer, kaptinemo and Doc-Hawk, I really would like to be able to talk to the three of you sometime. I think that the three of you have different but really good ideas and I'd like to learn more so I can be more effective here at Cannabis News and it would be nice to just talk for maybe a half hour or so sometime soon maybe? I have a little free chat that would do for being able to type and respond right away. If you would like to share some of your ideas with me decide on a time that would be convenient for you all and I'll make the time.Let me know and there isn't a rush I just would appreciate some input from you all.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on April 15, 2000 at 22:53:58 PT
Thanks for the comment and links
Just a note! One more time you amazed me with your knowledge. I know so little, but you sure help me learn more observer!Thanks Again, FoM!
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Comment #1 posted by observer on April 15, 2000 at 20:31:09 PT
Soldiers ... Standing Armies / Police, 2000
The Orange County Register does an exceptionally good job of covering the war on (the users of some) drugs. I would just make a few observations about Cops who Think of Themselves as Soldiers, and Soldiers who think of themselves as Cops...standing army (n., circa 1603) a permanent army consisting of paid soldiers"there is nothing inherently wrong with structuring police departments along military lines"see: also:THE FEDERALIST PAPERS NO. 8The Effects of Internal War in Producing StandingArmies and Other Institutions Unfriendly to Libertyby Alexander Hamilton"I do not like... the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of nations." -- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787. ME 6:387
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