At the height of the chaos in Baltimore, Maryland, while riots raged and blazes burned, one CNN newscaster went out on a limb and made a statement that has been insinuated previously by others but never openly stated in such a public way. The statement, made by CNN personality, Brooke Baldwin, is as follows:
I love our nation’s veterans but, some of them are coming back from war, they don’t know the communities, and they are ready to do battle.
Naturally, her comment, made live on the air, was met with tremendous outrage by the veterans community and those who support them. She quickly issued an apology and it is assumed that she will continue in her career unscathed.
An assumption is made here. The assumption is that police officers who are military veterans and combat veterans have a low threshold for tolerance and are quick to commit violence against the suspects they encounter on a daily basis. They are in a “combat mindset”, ready to treat the average citizen in the same fashion they would an insurgent or suspected terrorist. They also, obviously, would be very quick to pull the trigger if a threat was presented.
What none of you know, not even my most dedicated readers, is that I studied the situation of combat veteran police officers previously. My friend, and fellow investigator, Ed Gawrelak and I embarked on a brief study of it last year. We did not release the results or publish our findings because our data was incomplete. Since it could not be considered a scientific study, we decided to shelf the idea until we could come up with a better plan. We sent FOIA requests to numerous police departments throughout the Midwest United States seeking the data for our study. The data requested was based on a ten year period, a period that covered both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how many officer involved shootings had the department experienced and, of those officers, how many were veterans. Additionally, we asked for information regarding whether those veterans participated in a wartime deployment prior to, or during, their employment with the police department.
We received a variety of responses, most of them not very useful or cooperative. They ranged from, “We are not required to retain any such records so we cannot satisfy your FOIA request” to “We’ll (never) get back to you.” A handful of departments, less than a handful really, did provide what information they could and were very helpful with follow-up information when needed. Since we may go back to this study again in the future, I am not going to name those agencies at this time. I will, however, share with you some of the statistics we obtained from one particular Ohio City Police Department.
According to their records, over a ten year period, 289 officers fired their weapons in an officer involved shooting incident. That number probably seems high but that is probably due to the fact that people forget we have some large cities in Ohio. Flyover country isn’t always small towns and fields. Of those 289 officers, only 4 of them, yes, 4, were military veterans. Of those 4 veterans, their records showed that only 2 of them were post-9/11 veterans and only 1 had a known combat deployment. That means that, of this particular group of officers, those who were veterans appear to be LESS likely to fire their weapons in the line of duty. The very idea that experienced military personnel would be more likely to be trigger happy on the street is not only absurd but is also not supported by evidence. Is this scientifically sound as a study? No, not at all. But, the initial figures involved seem to prove the opposite of the assertion put forth by people like Brooke Baldwin.
There could be several factors at play here. First of all, those who have experience dealing with armed people may not immediately react with deadly force, even if it would be authorized and legal under the circumstances. This is not a hesitation reflex. I believe it is because they have learned, through years of training and perhaps combat experience, that the gun alone does not mean the person is a direct threat. It is the person who is the threat. Perhaps they have a better understanding of this and don’t immediately open fire at the first sign of aggression? Also, they may be more used to extremely stressful situations and have developed an ability to remain calm when exposed to them.
This subject requires more study. It is unlikely that a couple of laypersons will be granted financial backing to adequately look into the numbers and psychology involved. We would need professionals, scientists, psychologists, etc., to conduct a thorough investigation and produce their findings. Until then, we are left with the information available and, at this point, it would seem that the trigger-happy, combat veteran, cop label is not only insulting, but factually false.
Below are a couple of comments found on the internet attached to an article on Police Brutality. They reflect what has become a fairly common belief among segments of our society.