Law enforcement is being trained to kill vs. protect

By Lisa S. Dean
web posted June 26, 2000

A reliable colleague and friend, Larry Pratt, who is the executive director of Gun Owners of America in Northern Virginia, has said that the greatest problem with law enforcement at all levels is that new recruits are being trained at military installations such as Quantico rather than at law enforcement training facilities. He pointed out that this is significant insofar as that the military is trained to kill, while law enforcement is trained to protect. The result is that law enforcement agents are putting into practice those Rambo-style tactics they learn in training in their dealings with local citizens.

This reasoning is consistent with various reports in U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles and New York, about abusive tactics used by local law enforcement agents. It is also consistent with a recently published article in Insight magazine by Timothy Maier who tells the story of a 25 year-old man in Prince George's County, Maryland who, while asleep in his apartment, had his door kicked in by the county's Special Weapons and Tactics team who proceeded to brutally beat him and accuse him of murdering a fellow police officer.

Maier reports that the man nearly died after the ordeal with police and that medical reports indicated "multiple contusions, swollen eyes and welts covering his body. Boot mark imprinted in [the victim's] back and chest" were visible in photographs after the incident. One officer in Prince George's County responded to the incident saying, "This is what I call justice - street justice. It's like sharks when they hit a piece of meat on a feeding frenzy. He's a walking billboard."

This from our upstanding men in blue whose job traditionally is to protect the public rather than using them as guinea pigs while reenacting their favorite scenes in First Blood? Aside from the Rambo-style tactics and attitudes of the police officers in this case, there was another "little" problem. When the case went to trial, the man they nearly killed turned out to be innocent of the crime of which he was accused, or of any crime for that matter.

This case and others like it has angered Reno and her Justice Department, and she is launching a federal investigation into the activities and tactics local police departments are using to capture the accused.

This investigation may, on its face, sound reasonable but, to use a cliché, "beauty is only skin deep." When you look a little deeper, you will find the usual stench accompanying anything related to the Clinton Administration and the dismantling of upstanding American institutions. This issue is no different.

While the police officer whom I quoted undoubtedly sounded bitter and wanted justice, there is a reason for that. No Administration in our nation's history has treated law enforcement so badly. It has created a litigious and regulatory climate that favors the criminal rather than the law enforcement officer. At the state and local levels, law enforcement's hands are tied in many cases because federal agents enter the scene of a crime traditionally handled by local officials, but because the Clinton Administration has federalized yet another crime, local law enforcement is out of the picture.

If that isn't bad enough, criminals outgun law enforcement in the majority of cases and while the Administration claims to want to "get guns off the street", I think it's fair to say that it really only wants to strip the law-abiding citizens of their right to keep and bear arms and does very little to punish the criminal. This creates an atmosphere of frustration within the law enforcement community because it's their lives that are at stake and the regulations which are supposed to favor them, in fact, favor the criminal element.

So the level of frustration and anger that is mounting within the law enforcement establishment and created by the Administration is combined with military style training. In other words, get law enforcement good and mad, and then teach them how to take that anger out on the citizenry.

This is a dangerous exercise and really can be boiled down to a simple premise - how does each traditionally view human beings? The military is trained to look at people as objects rather than as human beings in need of protection. To the military, which is trained for combat, these people are their likely attackers and therefore, their targets. To law enforcement, human beings are their responsibility to protect and keep safe from danger.

When you train law enforcement to act like the military, who's left to protect the people? The federal government? Well, that is precisely what the Clinton Justice Department is saying. Because they believe that local law enforcement is "out of control," the Administration needs to step in and "rescue" the public from the big, bad law enforcement establishments when all along, that same Administration is guilty of creating the need for such a rescue in the first place.

This has been the pattern typical of this Administration though. Data privacy is the perfect example, to illustrate the point. This Administration has shown little if any regard for the privacy of the personal information it collected about us. Agencies shared it with one another, and even shared it with the private sector and gave the green light to the private sector to continue collecting, selling and sharing our personal information with the federal government. So when privacy advocates and others complained that there is no privacy for our sensitive, personal data, the Administration began cracking down on businesses for not protecting their customers' privacy. Again, it created the situation and then played the role of "rescuer" to the public for the evil that others committed at its behest.

The legacy of this president is breathtaking. When you think about it, it really should not be the responsibility of historians to write the Clinton legacy. That job is best left for psychologists.

Lisa Dean is Vice President for Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation.

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