CBS 60 Minutes recently did an absolutely fawning review of a police department in Springfield, Massachusetts, who claims to have implemented counterinsurgency tactics (hereafter COIN – Lesley Stahl incorrectly calls it a strategy, when it is more correctly a set of tactics, techniques and procedures). You can watch the segment on your own time, but it’s worth pointing out that 60 Minutes didn’t do anything earth-shattering in this segment. This is a fairly well known and well rehearsed report from 2012, and it is here that we will turn our attention.
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) – It’s a story CBS 3 has been following – the success of a state and Springfield police initiative in the city’s North End.
Law enforcement and residents say it’s transforming their neighborhood and cutting crime by 68 percent.
“I wish every hotspot community could use it, it has changed the lives of people here,” said Jose Claudio, director of the New North Citizens Council.
Claudio has lived in arguably the city’s most dangerous neighborhood for more than 40 years.
But he and many others aren’t giving up on it.
“This is our city, this is our neighborhood, we need to all work together,” he said.
After a particularly violent week that claimed three lives in the fall of 2009, police and residents were finally fed up with the violence.
“It was, it was a wake-up call for all of us,” said state police Trooper Michael Cutone.
Cutone took a lesson from his time in the Army Special Forces in Iraq and applied them to the streets in the North End.
“Gang members and drug dealers operate very similar to insurgents…by paralyzing the community and instilling fear in the community,” Cutone said.
But it’s more than just locking people up.
“It starts with every neighbor, it starts with every resident of Springfield,” said Claudio.
Claudio invites people he knows involved in the community to weekly meetings. Community and religious leaders and Springfield and state police meet there to talk about recent arrests, complaints and programs that are helping teens.
Issues brought up at Thursday’s meeting led state police to a home on Washburn Street, where a group of kids has allegedly been terrorizing one family.
Cutone says all too often this neighborhood swallows young kids up into a world of fear and abuse.
And most of the time gangs are seen as the only way out.
“It’s very difficult for that young person to say ‘no’ and they get sucked into the gang, so we have to have a counter-message, and one of those counter-messages is Joseph Mendoza,” Cutone said.
CBS 3 first introduced you to Pfc. Joseph Mendoza last week just days after he had graduated from Marine Corp boot camp.
Since seeing his story as a North End kid staying out of trouble and succeeding, families have approached his mom on how they can do the same.
“First young man from this community to go to the student trooper program, a year later from that joins the Marine Corp,” said Cutone.
But his story is not the only one of hope and survival coming out of this neighborhood.
Some of the people that go to the weekly meetings have done time, learned the hard way and are now paying it forward in various ways.
“It’s very humbling and rewarding at the same time,” Cutone said.
Claudio says he knows that once this group continues to scrape away the crime, the people of the North End can turn a corner.
“If everybody takes that pride and makes it happen, this city will be the comeback city,” Claudio said.
C-3 policing is catching the attention of law enforcement all over the nation.
Since seeing its benefits, police from California and North Carolina have visited Springfield to learn about it.
Police in Paterson, New Jersey, have learned about the COIN approach allegedly used in Springfield, and are reaching out to their police department to obtain mentoring to adopt those same tactics.
Analysis & Commentary
The 60 Minutes report is more remarkable for what it doesn’t say concerning the application of COIN in America. This didn’t begin in a vacuum. The theoretical underpinnings for this approach have been in the developmental stages for a long time.
The so-called war on drugs was the casus belli for the militarization of the local police forces in the U.S., although it took time to effect the evolution far and wide. Near the end of the campaign in Iraq, the favorite think tank of the left, the RAND Corporation, published a report in 2009 entitled Does The United States Need A New Police Force For Stability Operations? In it, Seth Jones, et. al., conclude:
Weighing all considerations, the researchers concluded that the best option would be a 6,000-person hybrid force headquartered in the U.S. Marshals Service. The personnel in reserve status could be employed in state and local police forces so they would be able to exercise police functions in a civilian population daily and could be called up as needed.
The Marshals Service was deemed to have many of the requisite skills. However, its training and management capabilities would need to be expanded to take on this large mission, and it would have to recruit additional personnel as well. The annual cost, $637 million, is reasonable given the capability it buys. The cost savings in relieving military forces of these duties could be greater than required to create the SPF.
The Military Police option was attractive for a number of reasons, especially its capacity, training, and logistical capabilities, but its inability to engage in policing activities when not deployed was a major stumbling block. The Posse Comitatus Act precludes military personnel from exercising police functions in a civilian setting, and legislative relief might be difficult to get.
Not to be outdone or left behind, the military establishment has weighed in with papers advocating the use of U.S. troops for a similar mission on American soil. One example, causing me forever to lose any respect for Small Wars Journal, was entitled Full Spectrum Operations In The Homeland: A Vision Of The Future, and SWJ followed this up later with Political Violence Prevention: Profiling Domestic Terrorists. The former paper advocated the use of U.S. military troops for stability operations in America, while the later paper advocated the use of human terrain systems for profiling “domestic terrorists” (I discussed these papers here).
Just to ensure that we all knew that the full force of the think tanks was behind this effort, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point published Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far Right (via Western Rifle Shooters Association). Several observations may be made at this point. First, while the seeds for military operations on American soil by police and/or U.S. troops had been planted long ago, watching war occur for a decade across our television screens caused a change in those whose predilections would point them in the direction of waring on American soil.
This is how it is to be done, it was easy to conclude. Social science with a gun: community involvement, town meetings, law enforcement knowledge of everyone all of the time, biometrics to track people (and especially men of military age), door kicking and killing as punitive measures, all sanctioned by the authorities and fully approved. A new mission. No longer will we merely perform constabulary duties. We must rebuild our cities, bring stability, and ensure that the centralized planners work with the military leaders to guide us all. The example has been set, and we’ve watched it unfold before our eyes for ten years. It has been paraded across our television screens for years, and now we know how to do it.
Second, in order to effect this revised mission, they must have the same tactics, same military hardware, and the same doctrine. Police involving the community sounds warm and acceptable to the uninitiated, but it has a dark underbelly. The carrot and stick approach requires that they perform as COIN troops, as forces of occupation, to enforce their will. War is, after all is said and done, the use of violence to enforce your will.
And this history of COIN in America has indeed been violent, partly because of the paradigm which guides the mission. I know something about the mission because my son is a former Marine and conducted operations in Fallujah in 2007. He performed counter-sniper operations, cleared rooms with an M4, cleared rooms with his Squad Automatic Weapon, performed satellite patrols, and operated an M2 aboard a helicopter targeting insurgents as they crossed over the Euphrates River into Fallujah after checkpoints had locked down the city. Marine Corps 2/6 went into Fallujah hard in the summer of 2007, but there’s an interesting instance that demonstrates how SWAT teams operate in America.
The Marines had control of Fallujah, but on rare ocassion special operations would roll through the city on their way to Ramadi after bad actors. On one such occasion when my son and one other Marine were coupled with Iraqi Police in one precinct, U.S. special operations based in Baghdad sped through his AO. He stopped them, and emphatically stated, “If you ever speed through my AO like that again in an unmarked vehicle, without uniforms and insignia, I’ll light you up like a f****** Christmas tree and laugh while you bleed out. You inform me the next time you’re in my AO.”
After that SO and the Marine Corps in Fallujah had a clear understanding and there were no more problems. But special operations desires anonymity, all of the time. I am unpersuaded that this is primarily for OPSEC or protection of families, since there is no anonymity for conventional Army or Marines. But SWAT teams have taken on the same tactics in America, wearing hoods, prohibiting photography, and generally refusing to divulge their identities.
In Chicago SWAT Raid Gone Terribly Wrong, we discussed a case in which the Chicago SWAT team raided a wrong address, hurling profanity at the family, pointing weapons at children, and demanding that one eleven month old show his hands. I later filed a FOIA request to find out the identities of the officers, and the request was denied. To have divulged the identities of the officers would not comport with the paradigm of special operations. But the problem runs deeper, and while we could run through the litany of dilemmas brought by the militarization of police in America, we’ll discuss it is three headings.
While SWAT teams have adopted the tactics of the military, they aren’t trained like the military. One prime example of this is the death of Mr. Eurie Stamps. Mr. Stamps was innocent of any wrongdoing. The police of Framingham, MA., forcibly entered his home and forced him into the prone position on the floor. One officer who had his finger on the trigger of his weapon stumbled over Mr. Stamps and discharged his firearm into the completely compliant Mr. Stamps, killing him. My son has been trained to overcome the sympathetic muscle reflect to pull the trigger of his weapon if he stumbles, but SWAT teams have not been through such training, and will never sustain the pressure, get the training or be required to have such skills and abilities.
Max Velocity sums up the situation very well in his discussion of the horrible situation in which the head of a household finds himself in a SWAT raid.
Realizing that this is a Law Enforcement raid, you decline to open fire. The stack comes in through the door. If you decline to fight, you better drop that weapon before they see it, or they will riddle you with bullets. At this point, you are putting your trust in the restraint of the HIT team. They now own you, your house and your family. Remember, they are poorly trained and afraid. They want to go home at the end of their shift. Your safety is not really their concern, only as far as any liability goes. If they kill or injure anyone, they will cover it up and get away with it. You are encouraged to pursue these actions within the system of the courts, but there will never be any satisfaction to be had there. The courts are corrupt and stacked towards the HIT team.
Oh yea, and they just shot and killed your beloved family pet as they made entry.
Remember: It is very important to note that any danger created by the HIT raid is unnecessary and purely created by the actions of the HIT itself. The very methods they use are creating danger, in particular for the home occupants. The HIT is liable, pure and simple, for their unnecessary militarized actions. Any threat to “officer safety” is greatly overborne by the threat to civilian victim safety, and entirely avoidable by the use of civilized methods, as opposed to the current thuggery.
What to expect? If you are not killed immediately, you will have weapons pointed at you. You wife and kids will be rousted out of bed, the family dogs killed and laying around thrashing in front of them. Rifle barrels will be pointed at your family. Death is only a twitchy trigger finger away. You and your wife will be screamed at, cussed at, thrown to the ground and restrained. If you argue you will be tasered and beaten if not shot, until you ‘stop resisting.’ Anyone in your house who is slow to react, such as a handicapped adult looking relative or child, or an ornery old WWII veteran from the Greatest Generation, risks being shot and killed for not immediately complying with orders.
The HIT team now owns your house and your family. They will tear it apart looking for whatever it is they are looking for, even if it is the wrong address. Your kids will be segregated until a social worker arrives to take custody of them. They are now wards of the state until you are freed. You property will be torn up. You will be cussed at and threatened by HIT team guys looking like military in their full gear. They will take all your legally owned firearms and you will never see them again.
They are afraid, trigger happy, generally untrained to perform these functions, and poorly led. In fact, SWAT teams in America will never rise to the level of control, discipline, leadership and training in special operations or the U.S. Marines.
Even if SWAT teams were trained like the military, their actions violate the fourth amendment of the U.S. constitution. This is true even if they obtain bench warrants for said operations (although oftentimes they do not). They operate with virtual impunity since their actions have judicial approval. In other words, they can generally find a judge who will sign anything. Without judicial approval for these tactics they would cease to exist, and thus the problem has its cancer deep into the fabric of the establishment. Judges are usually very well know and deeply influential in their communities anyway, and they not only know about these tactics, they approve of them, both implicitly and explicitly. Thebrutality with which the occupants of a home are treated is seen as collateral damage in a society that needs to be controlled with the application of force.
The application of force isn’t discriminatory. The Pittsburgh SWAT dragged a ten year old out of the bathtub and made him stand naked next to his four year old sister at gunpoint. The Detroit police wereall in a tizzy over an art gallery.
The moment the assault rifles surrounded her, Angie Wong was standing in a leafy art-gallery courtyard with her boyfriend, a lawyer named Paul Kaiser. It was just past 2 A.M., in May, 2008. Wong was twenty-two years old and was dressed for an evening out, in crisp white jeans, a white top, and tall heels that made it difficult not to wobble. The couple had stopped by a regular event hosted by the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID), a red brick gallery with the aim of “turning Detroit into a model city,” and arrived to find a tipsy, jubilant scene: inside, gallerygoers were looking at art and dancing to a d.j …
Only then did masked figures with guns storm the crowd, shouting, “Get on the fucking ground! Get down, get down!” Some forty Detroit police officers dressed in commando gear ordered the gallery attendees to line up on their knees, then took their car keys and confiscated their vehicles, largely on the grounds that the gallery lacked the proper permits for dancing and drinking.
A naked ten year old in a bathtub, dancing and drinking at an art gallery … these are the things occupying the SWAT teams of America. In the case of Brian Terry’s death, border agents initially fired bean bags at the killers. Yet bean bags were precisely what killed a 95 year old innocent man in Park Forrest (via Mike Vanderboegh).
The old man, described by a family member as “wobbly” on his feet, had refused medical attention. The paramedics were called. They brought in the Park Forest police.
First they tased him, but that didn’t work. So they fired a shotgun, hitting him in the stomach with a bean-bag round. Wrana was struck with such force that he bled to death internally, according to the Cook County medical examiner.
“The Japanese military couldn’t get him at the age he was touchable, in a uniform in the war. It took 70 years later for the Park Forest police to do the job,” Wrana’s family attorney, Nicholas Grapsas, a former prosecutor, said in an interview with me Thursday
Illegal Mexicans bent on killing, or a 95 year old veteran of WWII who had done no wrong. Eh … what’s the difference? Actually, the irony of these two cases is quite sad. In the one situation that should garner our support for militarized policing – the border – the authorities are prevented from acting in a manner which would secure the border. Illegal aliens are (a) promising votes for the Democrats, and (b) workers for Archer-Daniels-Midland and Monsanto as they scarf up family run farms, which they despise, while the American ratepayer and taxpayer foots the bill for medical care, uninsured motorist coverage, welfare and food stamps. Illegal aliens are loved by the big corporations in light of the corporate welfare that we all pay, and an economic disaster for the balance of Americans. The border is easy enough to secure, and remains open because the elite and powerful in both parties want it to be open. So a better way to state this problem may not be that the use of force isn’t discriminating, but that it is discriminating according to the wishes of the power brokers in America.
Finally, the COIN narrative is false. For those who are interested in the details of my assertions, see the category The Anbar Narrative. This is a subject that Professor and Colonel Gian Gentile (of West Point) and I have discussed in detail together – that is, the Petraeus narrative is a happy story made for the masses who do not understand warfare. Petraeus, it is said, stopped being brutal, befriended the people, brought peace to their neighborhoods, listened to the town leaders, and placed his folk in harm’s way in order to make the people safer and thus win hearts and minds. Winning hearts and minds means that they give up the insurgents, and presto, counterinsurgency made easy.
But there is nothing easy about it, it didn’t exactly happen that way, and in the end more than a thousand Marines perished in the Anbar Province and more than 4000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines perished in Iraq. Afghanistan was the campaign led by the social planners rather than a war fought by the NCOs and their men. Thus we lost in Afghanistan. Many tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and others perished in Iraq, and the scene on the street and in the countryside was brutal, bloody and awful. The belief that the COIN narrative can be applied in America or any place else by coupling with the community is a myth, at least as far as that narrative has been told to America.
The police cannot apply such a paradigm in the hopes of ameliorating social and cultural problems, because the police and armed forces cannot change the soul of mankind.
Summary and Conclusion
The evolution of militarized police in America has its doctrinal roots long ago, but has seen an acceleration during the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mission has evolved to one of COIN and stability operations, but this is a mission too far for constables. No constabulary operation or operations can possibly bring cultural change to a community. Thus the police have become occupational forces, without the training, discipline or leadership of the military, but with veritable impunity and complete judicial approval for their actions.
The use of force is indiscriminate, and armed invasion teams are being used to enforce trivial warrants that at one time would have been enforced by uniformed officers acting wisely and with restraint. In many cases the innocent suffer, and animals are routinely shot as a potential threat before any other actions occur. The police will always paint a happy face on their community involvement, but it’s corollary – de facto legalized home invasions by occupational forces – is the dark underbelly for which they anticipate and expect treatment as heroes, much like military troops returning from a hard deployment.
A man’s home is his castle and he has a God-given right to defend it, and thus armed invasion teams, state sanctioned or not and in all but the most extreme circumstances like situations with hostages, are evil and the men who perpetrate them are deeply sinful. These raids violate constitutional protections, but the judiciary is in bed with the executive branch rather than acting as a balance and counterweight to it. Judicial approval for these tactics is complete and comprehensive.
Max Velocity has another excellent article where he discusses for us the only possible solutions. Submit or resist. Resistance may and probably will mean that you resist alone. But submission may be equally dangerous, as armed teams acting as LEOs have become a favorite tactic of crime gangs. Submission may mean that you’re dropping your weapon only to learn that those invading your home intend to rape your wife and kill you and your children. The health and safety of your family may be at stake, and in fact, the very health and future of the republic. Choose wisely. But remember as you choose, the same establishment who would send armed invasion teams to shatter the safety of your home would prefer that you not have weapons. It makes their job much easier.
Update: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the attention, and welcome Instapundit readers.
Thanks to Western Rifle Shooters Association for the attention. WRSA has some worthy ideas for confronting local leadership to ascertain where they stand on these issues. All politics is local – or at least, it should be.
Thanks to Mike Vanderboegh for the attention.