So I could not help but notice tanks and soldiers rolling through an American city this week.
It’s kind of funny…people have complained for years about the militarization of police departments in America. Getting a surplus Bearcat armored vehicle is viewed by cops as a bulletproof wall to put between a bad guy and someone injured or pinned down, but to the ACLU it represents the oppression of people, as if we were an occupying army instead of a police force.
It is the absolute devil incarnate—at least until it’s used to save someone’s life. Then it’s a fantastic idea (which automatically returns to being the devil in the next news cycle). I understand the perception, but I also know its value, so I find it completely acceptable.
But when there really is an occupying army in an American city? I’m aware it was “just” the National Guard, but it’s scary on many levels.
As a child of the Cold War and the son of a war veteran, it was instilled in me at a young age to be wary of government overreach. History repeats itself, which is why I believe in an armed populus, because in the countries where the government was the only one allowed to have guns it didn’t end well for anybody. But now?
Now, as a cop, I’m not worried about government oppression, but rather how tenuous the line between order and chaos really is. That is the definition of “the thin blue line,” and it’s thinner then we think when given just the right push.
When bad things happen, people call the cops. Bank robbers, perverts, spousal abusers, burglar alarms…we’re the ones that let people rest easy because they know we’ll handle it. We watch out for the wolves. But when it’s not just one wolf preying on someone, or even five, 10, or 20 wolves, but rather hundreds? A thousand?
Police forces are far from being an occupying army, no matter how overly dramatic people are about their appearance with tactical vests, rifles, and heavy vehicles. We are peacekeepers; that’s it. And so in Baltimore? Ferguson? Los Angeles, 1992? When it comes to civil unrest, we have a serious math problem.
The Baltimore P.D. has somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 sworn officers and roughly 1,000 civilian support personnel. It’s the eighth-largest police department in the country. But Baltimore has a population of 641,000 at last count.
And when you take into account the metro area, there are over 2,700,000 people in the vicinity. That’s millions, with an “M,” and that means you have about a 1:900 ratio of cops-to-citizens, so when several hundred get to “acting the fool”? Let’s hope you’re over-insured as a home and/or business owner.
We cannot allow “anarchy.” Yes, “the people” should have the right to protest their government, yes, people can think it’s a romantic notion to wear a pale “V for Vendetta” mask and act like camping on a courthouse lawn will effect change, yes, people should have the right to assemble and protest. But the first hurled bottle? The first fire in a trashcan? The first rock thrown? They should be dealt with swiftly and efficiently, because that’s what leads to the suspension of posse comitatus, that’s what leads to Army soldiers on our streets and avenues. You think a cop in a tac vest and Kevlar helmet is offensive? Brothers and sisters, let us pray.
Police commissioners and police chiefs should be allowed to act swiftly and decisively in those instances. They should not have “opinions.” They should not try to ride the fence on whatever the social issue is; that is why we have mayors and other elected officials. They can try to be everyone’s friend and be sensitive and try to get everyone to hold puppies and flowers, but the cops? In this one scenario, they cannot allow things to escalate or people will get hurt.
You cannot “reason” with a mob, and you cannot arrest your way out of a mob, so whatever the underlying issue, we cannot tolerate a mob. Protest on the sidewalk, not in the street. Protest at city hall, not inside a CVS Pharmacy. Make your voice heard—but do not act the fool.
Sometimes you have to be unpopular; you have to be the “mean parent.” And to prevent a riot, I think you have to accept that not everyone’s going to like you, but if the alternative is having armed American soldiers patrolling our streets? I think we have to put away the Politically Correct Handbook for that one.
Just a thought…but what do I know? I’m just a peace-keeper, not a “professional” protester.
When officer Alexander D. Teach is not patrolling our fair city on the heels of the criminal element, he spends his spare time volunteering for the Boehm Birth Defects Center.