On The Verge

A few years ago I sat in a conference room situated inside of our non-descript, hidden, drug task force headquarters waiting for an operational raid briefing to begin. Surrounding me where my partners for this unit, consisting of local and state officers. A federal agent walked in and jokingly stated, Gentlemen I'm with the Federal Government and I'm here today to help. As if on cue, everyone looked at each other and laughed.

As all of us know, within the overall spectrum of law enforcement there exists an animosity between local and state officers toward our federal counterparts. Much of what the hard, and at times comical, feeling exist is due to past experiences, fallout from messy bureaucracies, jealousy and plain old humor. However friction between the state or locals and the feds is downright dangerous and getting worse daily. I'm not talking about the cops here, but rather the citizenry and federal government. The distrust, anger and outright resentment by normal law abiding citizens being vented toward the U.S. Government puts every cop, no matter what badge you carry, in the cross-hairs.

For the last two hundred years in our country law enforcement officers have relied on the fact that the vast majority, arguably 98%, of our population would support policing efforts to some varying degree. Basically, the citizens had our back. There were more lawful citizens than non-lawful. Governance relies on this basic principle in order to maintain the masses peacefully. It has not always been like that. Presidential historians will tell you that there have been two instances in American History where presidents seriously doubted whether the people would allow this government to continue. President Lincoln had this great troubling concern in the opening days of the Civil War and President Nixon, more than a century later, grasped at the same issue due to the national unrest of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Today, the American people have seen a cascading effect of federal government failures mixed with serious national stressors spanning the last decade. To name a few:

  • 9/11
  • War in Afghanistan
  • Hurricane Katrina federal response debacle
  • War in Iraq
  • The Great Recession
  • The Bank Bailout
  • Historically high unemployment
  • Obama-care

Hundreds of town hall meetings took place last summer over the Healthcare Overhaul proposals that resembled mini-riots rather than constructive debate. The law passed last month and while Congress voted inside the Capitol Building, surrounded by U.S. Capitol and U.S. Park Police, thousands of protestors screamed outside. Most polls recently show that 80% of the people think the U.S. Congress are a bunch of buffoons and do not represent them. The President is not very popular either. We are on the verge of something here I fear.

As true law enforcement professionals we took an oath, swore by it and in some cases our Brothers and Sisters in Blue paid for it - in their blood. Regardless of our personal feelings or beliefs, duty calls and protecting those who cannot protect themselves is our calling. We stand in the gap.

Is there really a huge separation between the government and the people, national discontent with the threat of mass violence facing our nation? Have we returned to a Lincoln or Nixon moment? Former President Bill Clinton apparently fears so. As ABC News reported on 04/19/10, Clinton expressed concern that he was seeing parallels in the temperament of the public at around the time of the Oklahoma City Bombing, during his tenure, compared to today. Analysis revealed then that most who were unhappy were not violent, but certain fragments of society (highly militant) captured the mood of the nation and responded with domestic terrorism.

As law enforcement, we represent the executive branch of government at all the levels and we are most accessible to the public. Therefore, we are huge targets. Is your agency forward thinking (proactive) when considering the safety concerns of your agency? Think about it this way; your police agency is centrally located, heavily advertised; open to anyone off the street and operating 24/7. Does your agency have a:

  • Counter-surveillance procedure or processes?
  • CCTV that observes the peripheral of the agency physical boundaries?
  • Methods for defeating VBIED, to handle incidents such as the OK City Bombing?
  • Procedures to address threats received by officers or their family members?
  • Means to actively seek intelligence for threats against officers and/or facility?
  • Training plan where officers are taught how to respond if they think they are being followed or targeted?

Is the targeting of cops really that great of a concern? Ask the officers of the City of Hemet, CA., Police Department who have been under siege for weeks now. Those officers are engaged in 4th Generation Warfare having their gang unit headquarters set up for a natural gas bombing, officers faced ballistic round booby-traps and their training office burned to the ground.

How about the confluence of those who hate us? Within intelligence circles it is common knowledge that various organized gangs, domestic and international, are sharing information, and resources to be more lethal. Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, the notorious ethnic Central America gang has been linked to helping Al-Qaeda gain entry across U.S. border. This is a perfect instance exemplifying the old saying of, ...the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

If your agency has not taken steps to train you or your family with how to protect themselves I would suggest getting a copy of a video called Living Safely in Dangerous Times by Kelly McCann (a.k.a. Jim Grover). Those of us in police, security or military training circles know of him well. The video has been out for over a decade, but what he offers is just as relevant today as it was then. His strategies and tactics are well validated; he teaches what he did. He was a USMC tactical operator. I do not often recommend a publication or video production, but without hesitation I suggest getting a copy of this video. For cops it serves as either a good refresher or foundational training for car bombs and searches. For our families it will probably scare them, but potentially keep them alive. Those closest to us can suffer for what we do.