Though the NRA has shown a great deal of media savvy as of late with their new media ventures, various pro-gun web sites are savaging them from one of their newest videos. Retired Navy SEAL Dom Raso and his friend, New Jersey SWAT officer Jerry Plum, talk about how the military is sharing TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) with law enforcement. They both support the idea of law enforcement training with and learning from the military, and seem to view it from an anti-terrorism perspective.
Unfortunately, their view seems myopic at best.
Raso is viewing this intersection of military and law enforcement from the perspective of an anti-terrorist, and it is a very valid—if limited—viewpoint. Plum is viewing this combined training from the perspective of a law enforcement officer on a tactical team that wants to go home at the end of the day, and comes from that very narrow perspective.
Neither view is wrong… but they are very unbalanced, and neither man seems to recognize the proverbial elephant in the room, that of widespread institutional incompetence in police tactical units.
Due to very limited budgets and high training costs, tactical officers receive only a small fraction of the crucial “hands on” high-level training time that they need to become truly proficient with their weapons, equipment, procedures, and personnel. While a handful of the larger municipal departments have the budgets and the focus to ensure that their tactical units get the training they need, these departments are an extreme minority, probably totaling less than 1% of all agencies.
The military units pioneering the tactics, techniques, and procedures being transferred to law enforcement units are full-time operators with years of increasingly specialized and relentless training in very narrow fields of specialization. One military operator from a Delta, MARSOC, or SEAL team has more individual training hours in a month than most SWAT/ERT teams will have in their entire careers, where their SWAT/ERT duties take a distant back seat to their normal patrol or desk duties.
The end result of this law enforcement militarization is that military trainers with the best intentions in the world are giving law enforcement tools and concepts that they cannot take the time to master. Most SWAT/ERT don’t have the time or training budgets to become truly competent, which truly skilled officers in these units—typically those who have come into law enforcement after military careers in an applicable MOS—will admit in moments of candor.
We’re giving real, selective-fire assault rifles and submachine guns to officers that mean well, but who were never trained to the point of competence, and law enforcement leaders are increasingly using these units in a wider range of operations in order to justify their expense.
I don’t know of anyone would would deny law enforcement officers the use of body armor, sidearms, or patrol rifles as needed in the course of their duties, as long as those officers are adequately trained. Unfortunately, many agencies are using military tactics and weapons in routine operations, where they are contributing to the risk of innocent people being hurt or killed, instead of serving and protecting.
The military and law enforcement have very distinct roles to play in a society that values individual human rights and liberty. That Mr. Raso and Mr. Plum can’t see that is troubling, especially when Plum has previously indicated his willingness to enforce unconstitutional laws.
We need fewer SWAT teams treating citizens like high-value targets to be raided, and more peace officers willing to interact among us.