10 October 2010

Why Hiring Mid-East Veterans Should be Approached with Caution

As someone who has been the victim of police harassment many times throughout the years, every time based on my appearance, a very possible future has me concerned.

Police forces around the country will be filled over the next several years with veterans who should likely not fill such roles.

Veterans Usually Are Ideal Choices for Police Work
Before I begin to explain why I don't think that many vets should take on police roles, I want to clarify my position on the practice of hiring vets.

Anyone who has served in the military has the training required to serve in any police force:
  • They are trained in, at the very least, basic weapons handling, self-defense, and general hand-to-hand combat.
  • They understand how chains of command work and are well versed in the ways of authoritarian protocol and discipline.
  • They know how to wear and care for uniforms and how to maintain a professional appearance.
  • They understand the importance of memorizing and adhering to departmental/institutional regulations.
This saves any police force considerable amounts of funds in way of training, which means a major savings to the people who ultimately pay the police - us, the taxpaying populous.

The practice of hiring veterans first has been par for the course for generations and should likely remain the case.

The Dark Side of Police Work
There's one thing about all police that affects even the most generally civic-minded of them that is troublesome — the Us vs. Them mentality.

It's hard to blame police officers for developing this idea that everyone they pull over or approach is a possible danger to them or up to no good. It's also difficult to blame them for getting so calloused, as most people they confront generally give them attitude. I'm certainly no exception (then again, I had very good reason to be upset with the cops who stopped me for no good reasons at all).

What develops is this disconnect between an officer's true role in our communities — to serve and protect — and how they tend to behave — to seek out all wrong-doers and punish them to the full extent of the law.

There are many initiatives within certain communities across the country that are working to reshape their police force to roles of compassionate public servant, and many of those efforts are sponsored by sections of the police forces themselves. After all, most people don't enjoy being viewed as the bad guy, especially when they should ideally be viewed as the good guy.

Still, the modern police paradigm prevails: If you're not a cop (us), you're likely up to no good and possibly dangerous (them).

In the Middle East, All Others Are Suspect
I can't even begin to imagine how terrifying it must be to serve in a military role in Iraq or Afghanistan. Even the most routine of traffic stops or roadside inspections can mean loss of limbs, senses, or the end of your life.

Understandably so, military personnel rapidly develop an exceptionally strong "us vs. them" mentality. I certainly would.

What is more terrifying, though, are the exceptionally high numbers of civilian casualties. We're not talking about deaths as a result of getting caught in the crossfire (not to say those casualties don't exist). It's that anyone who is slightly suspect is often jailed, if they're lucky. So many others are just shot upon sight, or their hovels destroyed with enough fire power to sink a destroyer.

I honestly don't know which would be scarier, being a Middle Easterner or serving in the US military. At least if you're in the military, though, there'd be no doubt as to which "side" you serve.

Rampant Refusal to Diagnose Veterans with PTSD Is a Recipe for Abuse
It's now a well-known fact that the US military is notoriously refusing to diagnose soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are many reasons thrown around for why the military would choose to deny such diagnoses. The most obvious, of course, is that in reducing the diagnoses, the military reduces the long-term health costs related with treating these troops.

After WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam, cases of domestic violence began to soar. This is a clearly documented phenomenon. What wasn't documented, mostly due to the more doe-eyed hero-worshiping citizenry of those eras, was the prevalence of police abuse. Most of the accounts of police abuse came from marginalized groups like African Americans and hippies, so they were generally discounted.

The Possible Danger of Thousands of Vets Becoming Cops
One of the most in-demand occupations these days is in the field of police work. With unemployment rates soaring to record highs and tens of thousands of troops returning from lengthy deployments in the Middle East, thousands of these troops will end up working in some form of law enforcement or security roles.

Combine the prevalence of PTSD in troops with their hyper sense of "us vs. them" and unleash them on the American population, and we are facing a very real possibility of excruciatingly high levels of police abuse.

Intensified Psychological Pre-screening Should be Required
I truly hope my prediction is incorrect, and I definitely don't believe that all troops-gone-cop will inherently become abusive police officers.

However, the risk of this happening is very real. Unless police forces take pro-active steps to ensure that their officers will adhere to a "to serve and protect" mindset instead of a viciously "us vs. them" mentality, a spike in police abuse claims will occur. In beefing up the depth of the psychological evaluations that all police candidates must undergo before employment, police force administrators should be able to avoid such a negative development from arising.

In this era of social media, nothing will be more damaging to the role that a police force should serve than a vet-gone-cop who loses it with the wrong person around to record it. Such exposure is not only devastating to the reputation of the specific department, but to the taxpayer costs in lieu of legal fees.


Anonymous said...

Nicely put together.I am writing a research proposal for a class of mine on this exact topic. I couldn't believe how similar your "Us vs. Them" mentality portion was to mine...here I was thinking I had an original application of that concept! Anyway, this was well organized and a good read.

Kyle Stich said...

Thanks for the props on the article, and here's to a stellar grade on your assignment.

With two folks coming up with the same prediction, it seems as though it might not be too far out there to make this forecast.