Gardeners on Patrol?

Dec. 15, 2023
Law enforcement agencies need to re-examine their recruit selection process and make sure they are hiring potential warriors, not gardeners.

If you’ve never heard the phrase, “It’s better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war,” then you might not understand the title of this article. That phrase has been attributed to many people from Carl von Clausewitz to being a Chinse Proverb. At the end of the day, most people understand it to simply mean, “It’s better to be trained and prepared for the worst even if your daily routine doesn’t involve it.”

There are probably lots of meanings or translations, but for people working in law enforcement, it’s a lesson/philosophy that should be embraced. The unfortunate ugly truth of the profession is that while “Protect and Serve” can involve being friendly and helpful (and often does), it can also mean having to fight a violent criminal hopped up on PCP to get him into handcuffs and transported to jail. If all you’ve ever done is prepare for the friendly helpful part, then when you find yourself in that fight with the PCP-fueled berserker, you’re likely at a disadvantage and almost certain to lose the fight. Another unfortunate reality of law enforcement is that “losing the fight” may well mean losing your life – or the life of another.

Another observation that is applicable to the profession is, “A civilized man can act like a barbarian, but a barbarian cannot act civilized.” Does it need much explanation for the applicability to law enforcement? Police officers, deputies, troopers, agents… no matter the title, being courteous and professional is learned behavior. When you think about it, the barbarian simply does what’s necessary to survive and doesn’t really give much consideration to whether the behavior is courteous or professional… or even appropriate.

The lesson applied should be obvious and may be missed by contemporary recruiting qualifications. In today’s world, as we recruit for law enforcement, a challenge that already seems to grow daily, we seem to be selecting those most suited to be a gardener but not capable of being a warrior… or a barbarian.

We select people who graduated from high school, and we prefer those who have never had any kind of disciplinary action in their records. We pick those with high grade point averages but don’t care if they’ve ever played a contact sport or team sports. We prefer people who have college degrees over those who have served in any branch of the military. That may not apply to every agency, but it seems to apply to a great many of them these days. Those that do accept military service instead of college want every candidate to have a squeaky-clean service record as well. Interestingly, one of the most respected Marine Corps Generals of all time, Chesty Puller, made a comment that, “you’re not even a real Marine unless you’ve been NJPd at least twice.” (NJP is non-judicial punishment and it’s usually doled out for some minor violation of regulations or other disciplinary challenge). General Puller knew, from decades of combat experience, that the best warriors didn’t always obey the rules.

Now that’s not to say that law enforcement agencies should only recruit those who have a background full of disciplinary issues and lacking in sufficient education. High school diplomas should obviously be required but the ideal candidates may well be those who were active in sports as well as having that 3.0 or better GPA. If your agency requires an associate degree, maybe it should consider accepting an equivalent number of years of military service in place thereof.

What we’re suggesting is that hiring those perfectly suited to be gardeners but as far from being warriors as can be managed might not be the best applicants. Yes, with the recruiting pool seeming to be getting too shallow, sometimes agencies have to accept (and be happy with) whatever applicants they can get. All we’re suggesting is that some rewarding of the originally cited phrase might apply: It’s better to be a warrior in a college than a college student in a war.

The other side of that is the community service outlook. Does your community need gardeners on patrol and answering calls for service? Probably not. It’s more likely that what you community wants and needs are those who are capable of responding to the most violent and dangerous of calls, but when such calls aren’t in the offing, they are capable of handling all those other “customer service” calls in the most courteous and professional manner.


Sponsored Recommendations

Build Your Real-Time Crime Center

March 19, 2024
A checklist for success

Whitepaper: A New Paradigm in Digital Investigations

July 28, 2023
Modernize your agency’s approach to get ahead of the digital evidence challenge

A New Paradigm in Digital Investigations

June 6, 2023
Modernize your agency’s approach to get ahead of the digital evidence challenge.

Listen to Real-Time Emergency 911 Calls in the Field

Feb. 8, 2023
Discover advanced technology that allows officers in the field to listen to emergency calls from their vehicles in real time and immediately identify the precise location of the...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Officer, create an account today!