“From now on all law enforcement activity must be performed with officers wearing approved pith helmets, rainbow armbands, and unicorns festooned on their uniforms in a minimum of three separate locations. Additionally, all police vehicles must be painted pink, and have at least one happy-face emoji located on each operational door… our focus group has determined this will make our society better.”
There has been a lot of angst and handwringing over the last couple of weeks regarding the use of federal law enforcement personnel, specifically in Portland (though it looks like it will also be taking place now in Chicago).
Agents from the Department of Homeland Security, specifically the BORTAC unit, have been engaged in law enforcement actions against individuals who have participated in criminal actions against federal installations.
(BORTAC is, for all intents and purposes, the SWAT unit of Homeland Security.)
So, what does BORTAC look like? Well… they look like a combat platoon. They wear camouflage OCP uniforms, plate carriers, helmets, and extremely stylish gloves. They also (oddly) use unmarked vehicles as a form of transport. (Think about that for a second… these guys literally stand out like a sore thumb, yet they drive around “incognito”?… Well, remember, it is a government operation.)
So people are losing their minds at the presence of these “stormtroopers” coming after these “peaceful protesters”. “The militarization of the police must stop! We need to launch a war on apparel! 5.11 Tactical must be stopped!!!”
While I completely agree that appearances matter… some perspective is in order. Under normal circumstances, I am completely against the “militarization” of the police… but not in the way that most people interpret that.
I believe that law enforcement… no… scratch that…”peace officers”… should be ever present in our society. Their visible presence has a number of benefits. First and foremost, they are there; we can see them, and if we need them we can quickly summon them. They are not living in cages waiting to be deployed. They are out and about in our community and directly interacting with everyone. My good friend, Sheriff Jim Wilson from Texas, had a mandate that his deputies be involved with a minimum of two community-based volunteer programs in the areas they patrolled. (As he said…”the only way to really know the people in your community is to be an actual part of your community. It’s kinda hard to be a jerk to the guy you see every Saturday at the kids’ baseball practice.”)
As such, I don’t believe that patrol deputies should have the appearance of an occupation force. They should look like… well… like cops. Not every cop is (nor should be) a SWAT operator.
Then we have those who are actually on specialty weapons teams…
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
When these guys are deployed it means that we have, by definition, “crossed the Rubicon”.
When we look at the force continuum (LE force continuum), the lowest rung is “presence”. Yes… the physical presence of the officer is a use of force.
Their presence has the actual ability to alter the behavior of people who are around them. You, undoubtedly, have experienced this before yourself. When an officer is driving behind you, well… you do tend to be more observant of the traffic laws, don’t you?
So… that brings us back to our Feds in OCPs. Their presence, their mere presence, is a “use of force”. They also have the jurisdiction to engage in police services. If someone is attacking, or is being arrested for attacking, a federal installation they have the federal authority to go after the person. If they believe their lives are in peril during the arrest, they have every right to protect themselves. More to the point, their goal is to effectuate an arrest with the minimal amount of force necessary. Overwhelming superiority in numbers and equipment can usually keep the force continuum on that lowest rung.
Do I want, or like, the deployment of these law enforcement officers in cities in America. Hell no! But my anger is not with the officers… it is with the insurgents who engage in actions that mandate the need for the officers in the first place.
I am sure the residents of Atlanta were not particularly thrilled when General Sherman showed up with his army… but he did not go there as part of a “training exercise”… he went there because the South took up arms against the Union. The blame lays square at the feet of those who have engaged in violent, offensive, and illegal behavior.
(In fairness though… maybe BORTAC can switch to white plastic-like uniforms with samurai-looking helmets… wait… maybe that is not a good idea.)