An Ongoing Issue.

I know that I have posted on this subject before and I will keep posting about it because, well this is my blog and I can.

The level of police violence in the U.S. is at a level has been on an increase. It has increased 25% between 1999 and 2008 and I am willing to bet that the number is even higher now. While between 1960 and 2014 our population has almost doubled and crime has been trending down. It seems that the population is getting larger and more civil, while the police, recently, have been getting more violent.

Why?

I had a good discussion with a nurse during one of my wife’s ER visits and he put something into perspective. I mentioned that police had changed in the past 25-30 years and I couldn’t figure out why. He finally gave me the missing piece of the puzzle that I had looked at but didn’t want to acknowledge. A lot of police today are ex-military. He told me that he was a vet and that he almost went into law-enforcement; however he became an RN instead because he had seen enough combat. He talked about that the training that the military provides and that the police training that a lot of vets receive probably doesn’t mesh. In the military, you pull out a gun to kill an enemy. In the police force you use it to enforce compliance. Sometimes, that may get a bit confusing for some vets.

My question is: “When did a gun become a compliance tool?”

When I was growing up, I was always told by the cops at the PD where my mom was an officer that their gun was a last resort. You only pulled it if your life was in danger and you were about to use it. You didn’t pull it to make a point or show dominance.

With this latest shooting of a therapist laying in a submissive position in the middle of the street and now the Dade County Police Benevolent Association explanation of the shooting as “The officer had intended to shoot the patient, whom he thought posed a danger” (Because apparently an autistic man with a toy truck is a menace to society), I have started wondering about this issue again.

So, I started doing some digging and I found that unemployment amongst returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan is 7.7% and out of those returning vets, the majority go into the police force because it is viewed as “a marriage of convenience”.  In 2014, the Army alone proposed to cut 80,000 soldiers from its ranks over the next 4 years.  Generally about 20% of returning vets go into law-enforcement. So, that’s 16,000 soldiers going into law-enforcement over the next four years from just the Army. The market is currently flooded with ex-military personnel looking for work and the police force is looking to hire them.

There’s only one problem with this. (source)

Combat veterans seeking police careers may do poorly on entrance exams, they may lack confidence in their skill sets, or they may have had some post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms that come out in psychological screenings. Any of these issues can keep returning military personnel from a police job, but all can be remedied. More importantly, there are people and programs in and out of the military that can help.

A lot of vets come home with issues that they need to work through. PTSD is a major mental health issue that affects a large percentage of returning veterans and takes medication and therapy that a lot of vets don’t get or just they only rely on the medication because they believe that the therapy aspect is unneeded or they fear that they will lose some of their rights (mainly gun ownership) if their condition is on record.

…not every veteran returning home from military service has PTSD. Some studies suggest that it affects between 10% and 20% of veterans returning from active duty. …that PTSD is becoming more diagnosed in police officers and some departments are getting the message that the condition doesn’t mean they have to throw away the officer or the officer candidate.

There is evidence that police departments are understanding PTSD better these days, not only in their own ranks, but in the pool of prospective candidates. A recent study conducted by the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control examined law enforcement agencies’ hiring practices regarding PTSD. The study found that a PTSD diagnosis is not necessarily a disqualifier for a police job. Most agencies studied reported that every candidate is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and it depends on the severity of the diagnosis whether PTSD is a disqualifier.

While I agree that PTSD may not be a disqualifier and should be done on a case – by- case basis, the issue is that PTSD leads to other issues such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory, cognition and even other mental health issues. So, if this candidate is getting treatment, on proper medication and this is all being monitored by the agency that they are working for, then I don’t see an issue; however when I looked for this study done mentioned that was done by the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control, I couldn’t find it. I did find these two:

http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd/nccosc/healthProfessionalsV2/researchQuarterly/Documents/winter2014ResearchQuarterly.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4010956/

Both studies stress that mental health assistance such as medication and therapy in either a one-on-one or group setting is key to treating PTSD and overcoming its effects on the person’s life  & mental well-being.

Now, the majority of these viewpoints were from the law-enforcement community’s side of things. I dug to see what the military and veteran’s take on this was and I was actually surprised by some of what I found.

The gist of what I read was that even though there is a huge comfort level for vets in law-enforcement and many veterans feel that law enforcement is a natural fit, some former service members resent being typecast. Others say the profession is the least suitable career choice for veterans who are still working out emotional issues from deployments. And some veterans only consider a career in law enforcement because they consider it one of the few viable options in a challenging job market. (source)

“I could see how somebody would think that would be an easy transition,” he said at a recent jobs fair at the Concord Hilton. “It’s familiar. I work with guns, I know how to use them, why not get a job that uses the same equipment? But I’ve spoken with vets. And, myself, I think I’ve experienced enough of that, so I wouldn’t want to relive that type of experience.”

“A lot of them get out, they’re intelligent, they use the G.I. Bill to get a degree,” he said. “It’s like, ‘I can do more than pull a trigger.'”

Army veteran Mike Magpusao – Project Hired

What I am seeing between these two articles, the conversation that I have with the ex-vet nurse, and the current events in our country is that our police departments are changing their hiring processes. They are hiring tons of ex-soldiers that are used to dealing with a combative enemy and now trying to train them to deal with a civilian population. We are taking Rangers, SEALS and Marines and asking them to write traffic tickets. This is vastly different from the hiring processes of about 20+ years ago.

A generation or so ago in policing, departments were giving preference to college graduates when looking for qualified officer candidates. Education still remains an important factor for police hiring, but many agencies have learned that the education gained in military service may have a greater value to a police officer than a formal college education.

The soldier has led a squad from point A to point B and had to decide the safest way to get there. The college student has had to complete a class assignment in time to attend a frat party on Friday night. Some departments have recognized this and taken a more global approach to the candidate’s qualifications to be a police officer.

We used to take educated civilians and train them to become police officers. Now we take high school or some college educated ex-military personnel and try to give them additional training to handle a civilian population. Mind you, I am not against hiring veterans, but maybe we should start the old hiring process as well and find a healthy mix. Both for the civilian population and the veterans that are returning from combat.

“You’re going to continue to expose yourself to violence, tension, stress, anxiety. You come back and become a police officer, the potential for retraumatizing is very high.”

– Jason Deitch – Army Ranger who served multiple deployments to Africa and the Middle East.

There is no logical link between the two professions, and he urges caution.

Veterans come home and then go into a career that puts them into almost the same level of anxiety that they just left and in my opinion, law-enforcement agencies are preying on the fact that these men and women are returning home and pushing them towards a career that does feel familiar and that they feel that they can excel in quickly, but will ultimately lead them to the same levels of stress that they just left and cause nothing but harm to themselves or someone else.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police was concerned enough about “transitional obstacles” veterans might face if they pursued a career in law enforcement that three years ago it published guidebooks for veterans and any agencies that might consider hiring them.
But those concerns didn’t stop Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), an office of the Department of Justice, from offering 220 cities $114.6 million in incentive grants to hire post-9/11 veterans to fill 800 law enforcement positions.

With programs like these and the dumping of surplus military equipment into our police agencies hands, it’s no wonder why see small town police departments with APVs and grenade launchers and the people who know how to use them. Our police are becoming a domestic army, a garrison in each town. Not because of some crazy conspiracy involving taking away our guns, Walmart concentration camps for christans, or the illuminati, but because law-enforcement is hiring out of work vets in droves. With incentives and a pension, why wouldn’t you sign up?

streamlining or fast-tracking your applications
waiving education requirements
adding preference points to exam scores
offering incentive pay
offering service credit toward retirement

So, who’s to blame?

Well, not the vets. They need to work just like everyone. You could look at the predatory hiring processes of the law-enforcement agencies around the country and the DOJ for enabling and/or encouraging these processes to continue. You could take a look at the demand that we put on our law-enforcement officers and see that we really put too much on them. There’s a lot of different directions to point fingers. I don’t even know where to start.

I just know that all of this shit needs to stop.

 

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