There are more than 180,000 US soldiers serving in more than 140 countries around the world. During the height of the war in Iraq, there were more than 170,000 deployed in just that country alone. Much of the work soldiers did in Iraq—and do in combat zones around the globe—is not always about fighting. Many spent a lot of time working to create sustainable security and governance. A major part of sustainable security is the development of host-nation security forces, and in urban areas the biggest part of that is policing.
In this episode of MWI’s Urban Warfare Project Podcast, John Spencer is joined by Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski to discuss how urban policing works. In the conversation, Chief Niski explains the basics of urban policing, how the size of the police force and frequency of patrols in dense urban areas is determined, technologies that can be used to assist in urban policing, and recommendations for the military about advising police forces.
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Image credit: Thomas Hawk
Thanks. I appreciated this podcast, and hearing Police Chief Niski’s comments on policing. But there was a line of thinking that ran through the episode that made me uncomfortable. The idea behind this conversation is that there are links between the military’s mission and the mission of “urban policing” – a term that the podcast never really defined. It would be worthwhile for MWI to give this analogy a more rigorous exploration.
Of interest was a comment made by Police Chief Niski about “authority”. He noted that the military draws its authority from country, and that police departments get their authority from the community. I think that this is a true statement. But in the conversation it is implied that these two fonts of authority are similar – that they reflect “the same kind of mindset”. This, in my opinion, is untrue. In fact they’re so dissimilar as to make the comparison un-useful. Dangerous, even.
Our country does indeed give the military its authority – based on the constitution and codified through law. Our country gives the military the authority to travel to foreign soil and use force – up to and including deadly force – to ensure the safety of our nation. The military serves one master: the American people. It is true that it is often in the interest of the American people for military personnel to enforce control and order among foreign populations. That mission is important and noble, and can bring great comfort to foreign non-combatants in an otherwise chaotic situation. But even though American military personnel operate among foreign non-combatants, they don’t serve them. American military personnel only serve the citizens of the United States of America.
The authority that a community grants to its police force is very different. Police forces serve the people that they work among. Police forces derive their social license to operate from the citizens in the community that they police. They are subject to the consent of the governed. This is not the case for soldiers operating abroad.
Police forces don’t occupy, control, or subdue. They serve. Police officers do difficult and dangerous work. Like soldiers, they at times will have to put themselves in harms way. But the mission of a police officer is not soldiering. In my humble opinion this is not quibbling. It is an enormous distinction. As a citizen, the blurring of these two missions makes me uncomfortable. This might be a topic for MWI to explore further.
These were during times when previous administrations sought to overspend budgets on world policing countries that ripped Americans off resulting in an increasingly never ending debt. The congressional military industrial complex in addition to other conglomerate cooperate influences have fueled never ending world policing wars.