Should police officers see themselves as warriors or as peacemakers? Most experts I've seen who have weighed in on this question argue for peacemakers, not this sort of officer.
After all, most of what police officers do has nothing to do with violence. Here's one of the images in a blog post called "Policing Explained in a Few Graphs" by Jerry Ratcliffe, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University. Ratcliffe says:
1. Policing is overwhelmingly a social service
Graph no. 1. This is from the second edition of my book “Intelligence-Led Policing“. The area of each box represents the volume of incidents in 2015 in the City of Philadelphia (about 1.5m in total). These incidents can come from verified calls for service from the public (something really took place as confirmed by a police officer), or from officer-initiated events (such as drug incidents).
What is clear from the graphic is that violent crime plays such a small part in the day-to-day demands on police departments, even in Philadelphia, one of the more troubled cities in the U.S. While the media frets over homicide, it can be seen in the lower right as one of the least noticeable boxes in the graph. The majority of the police department’s workload is the day-to-day minutiae of life in a big city.
However, I strongly doubt that most would-be police officers would be motivated by a pitch to "do your part to manage the day-to-day minutiae of life in a big city." Or, a medium sized city like Salem.
Here's part of a job summary for entry level officers in the Salem Police Department that someone sent me. I've boldfaced parts that relate to the very small part of a police officer job that involves violence or the need to have a warrior mentality.
As a law enforcement leader in the Pacific Northwest, the Salem Police Department is searching for outstanding candidates for the position of entry level police officer. Our agency has a full complement of special teams and units to include: SWAT, Bomb Squad, Riot Team, Tactical Negotiations Team, Narcotics Unit, DEA Task Force, Detectives, Motorcycle Unit, Mountain Bike Unit, School Resource Officers, Crash Reconstructionist, Computer Forensics, Mental Health Unit, Training Division, Peer Support Team, Civil Investigations Team, and Patrol.
We are the second largest municipality in the state of Oregon whose responsibilities include providing public safety services and peace of mind to the nearly 175,000 residents in the capital city. In September of 2020 the Salem Police Department will move into the largest, stand-alone police facility in the state. This will provide you the opportunity to serve in a state-of-the-art public safety facility.
The Salem Police Department is the recognized leader in our region for technology and training to better serve our community and neighboring agencies. We have a fleet of state-of-the-art patrol cars with the latest computer technology, cameras, automated license plate reader systems, and weapons platforms. As a Salem Police Officer, you will be issued your needed equipment to include: uniforms, weapons (handgun and rifle), boots, duty gear, iPhone, and more.
Officers will use their city-provided iPhone hugely more than their handgun and rifle. But when people think of what police do, talking on a iPhone probably doesn't come to mind.
For some reason the Salem Police Department used its SWAT team during the recent Black Lives Matter protests in Salem, maybe because the SWAT team has so little to do. Regardless, it is painfully clear that when police treat citizens who are protesting injustice as if they were an enemy force, the result usually doesn't turn out well.
Case in point: the nightly protests in Portland. Yes, some of those involved do appear to be anarchists who aren't so much interested in peacefully protesting as in provoking the police to respond with force.
But when the police react to a tossed water bottle or firework with tear gas, flash bangs, and non-lethal (supposedly) rounds, the counter-reaction is entirely predictable -- additional protests fueled by the police actions. And so it goes, like two elementary school children arguing on a playground. (Do children still say doofus? I could be showing my age.)
"You're a doofus!"
"No, you are!"
"Takes one to know one, doofus!"
"I may be a little doofus but you're a GIANT doofus!"
After Trump sent federal agents into Portland in a desperate attempt to rekindle his fading reelection chances, the situation got worse in the city. Nightly protests were winding down before Trump unleashed untrained federal personnel wearing camouflage gear and carrying assault rifles on the protesters.
Now we're in what could be called Theater of the Absurd, if the absurdity hadn't already almost cost a protester his life after he was struck in the head by a "non-lethal" round that nonetheless left him with fractures that required facial reconstruction surgery.
Trump's escalation of the situation by further militarizing it has led to a standoff with no apparent end in sight.
This is the danger of police, or pretend police in this case, buying into a warrior rather than peacekeeper mentality. Likely Trump won't allow the federal agents to be withdrawn so long as the protests are continuing, because that would make him look weak given his pseudo-masculine sense of self.
And the protesters probably feel that they can't stop what they're doing and thereby give Trump a win, which would encourage him to try the same stunt of sending federal agents into other liberal cities just to show... I don't know, that he can?
Is this how we want police to behave? The guy being hit in the video below with a baton, and barely flinching, is a Navy veteran who went to a Portland protest because he was upset with the federal agents abducting people off the street and taking them away in unmarked cars, an obvious violation of their constitutional rights.
The video infuriates me. And it adds fuel to the flame of the protests. All because police in general, and the federal agents in particular, view themselves more as soldiers fighting an enemy than as peacemakers keeping people safe.