The Veteran as Police Officer – A Dangerous Mix?

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.

Ross Elder

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.

kristina says:

They didn’t seem to mention the fact that ex military have taken the police departments by storm…

Training in military is programing to consider all persons potential enemies and deal with acceptable loss mentality…

In the military, they regularly are trained to bust down doors, threaten family members to locate combatants…


philrodo says:

Kristina hit the nail on the head. I’ve been saying that the ex-military who have taken up jobs with PDs have served in an environment where the military are asked to police the indigenous populations (e.g., Iraq & Afghanistan) and return to the states with the mentality that all civilians are the enemy. In those combat zones, they didn’t have to worry about niceties like civil liberties and Constitutional rights, so they act oblivious to such restrains. I think that localities should prohibit the hiring of former military as police officers–but I doubt that will ever happen in our lifetimes…

I’d really like to see a thorough study done on this…



4 thoughts on “The Veteran as Police Officer – A Dangerous Mix?

  1. This article seems to echo the same opinions and facts that I have heard and read about.

    Good read, Ross!

  2. There are some additional elements. Political agendas religious ideology, membership in organizations, etc. questions like do they take the job because their friends joined, or do they enjoy the work, do they have another motivation? Because having worked with criminal investigators, there are subversive organizations that infiltrate police departments. When I started, the DA informed me that half his staff were under investigation by internal affairs. for instance, I have first hand knowledge that the Nation of Islam and the communist party, and the Muslim brotherhood actively recruit for municipal security, police, national guard, and CIA. I know a corrupt police officer from Cairo, who worked for the LAPD when Morsi was living in Southern California. He told me the whole story. I know that a lot of security officers are working for the other side. I also know that obama has a street army. I’ve been watching them since 2003. And I know the Communidt party has been paying for it with phony grant money. They also have a paid propaganda army at CNN that take their marching orders from the central planning unit of the Communidt party. All you need to do is recover the threat assessments from the congressional archives and read the microfiche. And then you have the Masons who interfere in everything. It’s never as simple as CZnN would like us to believe.

  3. The reason former military are less likely to react with deadly force is because of the EOF(Escalation of Force) training we receive along with the Rules of Engagement prior to a deployment. Within those procedures are the steps we follow in potentially hostile areas such as waiving vehicles down to slow for a checkpoint and gauging whether the vehicle is slowing enough or if it’s going to attempt to push through for an attack. We would assess the threat, sagging suspension indicates a heavy load, possibly explosives. Checking how many occupants were in the vehicle or whether it held women or children. After that raise weapon slightly while clearly signaling and shouting for them to stop, if it becomes clear that they are purposefully disobeying our commands we switch from safe to fire on our rifles and then raise our weapon at the engine block and fire in an attempt to stop the vehicle. If they continue we then fire at the driver. Keep in mind that this happens literally in seconds. If we’re able to run through all these steps in a combat zone to prevent unecessary casualties then I think average cops can be trained to not see everyone and everything as a hostile threat requiring deadly force. If we deployed with their TTPs (tactics techniques and procedures) then I think we’d be knee deep in civilian casualties daily. That’s just one scenario we encounter, we have multiple TTPs for various situations we may encounter and run through practice trials of various possible threats until it becomes muscle memory. It’s almost funny if it wasn’t so sad.

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