In Force Science News #325, Capt. Chip Huth of the Kansas City (MO) PD calls the term “warrior” into question (his emphasis):
“The hyperbolic use…of the term “warrior,” stating that it “represents another way law enforcement culture has worked to emphasize distinctions between the public and the police. Metaphors can illuminate, but if taken overly seriously, they can also mislead, and the warrior archetype is one of the most misunderstood models in present-day society.”
Capt. Huth has written a book, is writing another, has a TED talk, and has at least real world tactical and leadership experience. His is a worthwhile viewpoint, shared by others, yet one which bears deeper analysis…
Chip Huth (looking kinda warrior-y to me…)
At its core, Capt. Huth’s issue with the warrior metaphor is that it creates a distinction between the people of the community and the officers that serve them. He takes issue with Grossman’s “sheepdog” concept, noting that in his own (Huth’s) view, this creates an image of people as “sheeple” and of sheepdogs as snarling and nipping at them to keep them in line. Some chafe at the idea that their local cops might look down on them, feel that they are superior to them,”throw their badges around” etc. Or dare to style themselves warriors…
While I completely disagree with Capt Huth’s statements that police culture takes the warrior metaphor overly seriously, the fact of the matter is law enforcement doesn’t take it seriously enough. Something rankles when some… shall we say rather porcine individuals… out of shape, can’t fight, and can’t shoot… somehow now want to be viewed as “warriors.”
Our Constitution, our Courts, and our society have underscored and reminded police officers that they “are not at war with our own people.” This is the only way it can be in a modern democratic society. But some of our people are at war within their own communities – Chicago being a prime example.
Still others, twisted by ideology or their own fevered minds or simply by happenstance or circumstance, are at war with the police.
In each case, it is police officers that are the first responders, the front line, and the specific targets of that violence. Like when a man with grandiose delusions walked into a Lakewood, Washington coffee shop and murdered four police officers. There have been numerous examples since. Men clearly at war with police.
Or when an active shooter approached a Sikh Temple, or entered that African American church and though he was invited to pray with them instead ambushed and murdered the congregants, were they not at war? (racial war? holy war? racial holy war?).
The shooter that entered the gay nightclub in Florida and began a horrific slaughter; The husband-and-wife team in San Bernardino; Or the man at Ohio State. Were they not at war?
Perhaps not only with innocent people enjoying the freedoms our country and society offers for them to be themselves, but perhaps with themselves?
When gang members spray bullets down their neighborhood streets full of children, or into gatherings at street corners or in cars or parties in disputes over territory or perceived disrespect, are they not turning their neighborhood into a war zone?
Or, finally, those at war with their own families, brutalizing and dehumanizing them over years, deciding to ambush responding officers but responding to a call for help – because they are the only ones who ever actually do anything, or represent any real consequences for the perpetrators of such acts: not the courts or the counselors or often even the victims. These officers enter a battlefield not of their creation or choosing.
Who exactly do we want to respond to these incidents? What kind of person? Who do we want training our young new officers to respond to them? Who do you, mother and father, want sitting in the car next to your daughter or son as they begin careers as police officers, training them and advising them on how to do the job?
What kind of officer do you want teaching them the ropes and how to be safe?
We hear even from those who dismiss the warrior metaphor that:
“Well, cops still need to be warriors when its time to be warriors”
“90% of the time, we are Guardians, the other 10% we are warriors…” utterly misunderstanding that in its original concept the Guardians were warriors, and not just “10% of the time.”
Those aspiring to the warrior metaphor must come the understand that the Warrior Ethos is a Way of Life.
That means constant, career-long training in physical and technical skills; constant study of investigative, officer safety, and operational tactics; of tactical communication and de-escalation from a posture of confidence and competence in the full spectrum of enforcement, not based on lack of these very things and fear of liability and public perception.
And as Capt Huth rightly calls to attention, the very idea that a police union could in any way ever argue against physical fitness standards for their membership. Though we all know this is a reality.
Capt Huth notes:
“In some of the oldest warrior literature the “enemy” the text referred to was understood to represent these types of personal shortcomings, and the battlefield was considered to be one’s own heart.”
This is true, perhaps not necessarily of the oldest literature but certainly a nascent concept of it was there. Tactical performance at the highest levels has been linked to composure and character for a long time in sources from both East and West, classical and modern.
The Warrior Ethos calls for responsibility and accountability on the part of all: the public, police executives, law enforcement unions and individual police officers. This is so obviously the path that needs to be followed, yet is so poorly understood within the ranks of law enforcement that its own executives and managers don’t understand and can’t explain it in any meaningful way, and its rank and file invoke it as a mantra without doing the work so necessary to make it a reality.