Guardian v. Warrior

Guardian v. Warrior

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

In May of 2015, one of the most anti-law and order Presidents in the history of the United States lifted his scepter and redubbed police officers as guardians. Obama’s imagery of police officers being soldiers in a war against its own citizens preceded a spike in gun purchases and violent crime as the immediate aftermath of his attempt to castrate American law enforcement.

The debate about what a guardian is ends up being pretty meaningless. It was clearly a word that was designed, not to usher in a more effective policing style for the sake of public safety, but to rid the profession of the “W” word: warrior. No doubt it was the subject of many hours of high-level meetings with spin doctors thumbing through a thesaurus rejecting “doorman”, “safety patrol”, “officer friendlies” and other marshmallow monikers.

President Obama made this pronouncement during his prohibition on providing surplus “military-grade” assets to local law enforcement. He left the public with the implication that cops were getting tanks and machine guns and other weapons of destruction. The scary pictures that the lapdog media were showing made this look true. About the same time, I announced a challenge for anyone who could provide me evidence that a machine gun was mounted on an armored vehicle by civilian police anywhere in the USA to be awarded $100 out of my own pocket. No one could.

Surplus armored vehicles from the military are used as rescue vehicles by civilian police. There are a variety of such vehicles from both US and foreign sources. The most commonly known is the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP). This vehicle was developed to thwart the lethal weapon of roadside bombs used in Middle East conflicts. Their belly’s V shape dispersed an explosive force more effectively than its flat-bottomed predecessors. I have written many times in many places that no police agency really wants an MRAP. What they want is an American-made armored vehicle designed for civilian rescue. But those carry a six-figure price tag compared to the relatively small cost of getting the MRAP.

The MRAP discussion is relevant to the guardian v. warrior debate because it is an example of propaganda aimed at painting the police as war-like creatures that need to be tamed. I must say congratulations to those whose purpose was to have the police become distrusted agents of harm to the public because in many arenas this perverted and undeserved view has emerged strong enough to affect budgets and policy in many agencies across the nation, ultimately costing lost lives and property as crime rises.

The warrior mindset became a part of police training during an officer survival movement that began in earnest in the early 90s. Every police academy and field training officer would train their police to be able to survive a street fight or gunfight, but the science of human performance began to catch up with the myths and assumptions about physical confrontations. Training companies saw a need that agency training was not meeting and officers responded by the thousands.

One of the elements of officer survival is the development of a winning mind. This is a predisposition, developed by training, toward a focused attitude of survival that will enhance the odds of living through an attack. Essential to this mindset, also known as a survival or warrior mindset, is the anticipation of an attack. Not only should an officer not be so surprised by an act of resistance or other aggression and therefore be too stunned to respond, but an officer should have an action plan in mind to confront the criminal assault.  This is the warrior ethos of a police officer – to survive to serve.

There is not one thing wrong with a warrior mindset. It does not negate compassion, patience, tolerance, or diplomacy. It doesn’t create us versus them attitude aimed at the general public. It simply means that one is ready to respond to the highest threat. To erase the thought that an attack might occur anytime would place an officer at a disadvantage that could be lethal to them or the public they serve. Every police officer that I know has encountered violence on “routine” calls. The warrior mindset teaches us that there is no such thing as a routine call. Officers have been attacked and killed investigating animal complaints, stopping to assist a stranded motorist, walking into a convenience store for a mid-shift snack, and delivering court orders. Surviving means that officers are able to continue to protect the public.

I don’t know what a guardian is in the mind of those who think police officers should be unarmed public relations machines, but if I call 911, I want a warrior at my door.