My past three columns have been about the similarities of police officers and combat soldiers. But, thanks to some new information, I have undergone a huge paradigm shift. I knew there were differences, but I had no clue that the similarities were closer than flies swarming on a lion’s snout.
As a retired command sergeant major from the U.S. Army, my nephew, Adam Tweedell, shared with me some information that made my hair turn red. He said that he didn’t attend a police academy, he was not certified in criminal justice, and he had no specialized training in that field. But, just like police officers anywhere in our country, he and his soldiers in Afghanistan confronted people who received money from drugs, human trafficking, narcotics, weapons and extortion.
My hat is off to anyone who wears or has worn a military uniform, but for the purpose of this column, I am writing about combat soldiers. I learned that the rules of engagement were different for combat soldiers in Afghanistan than they were for police officers here in the United States. These combat soldiers found themselves monitoring criminal activity in a land of lawlessness. Although they got great results, he said their methods would not fly in the United States.
Adam was in an infantry battalion that had no attachments to the military police. His soldiers were not restricted by the requirements to obtain warrants for cellphone monitoring, computer forensics, entering homes or buildings, or conducting searches. And just like police officers, they tried hard to slather their citizens with kindness so that they could garner a relationship of trust and information sharing.
Police officers work very hard to win the favor of their local citizens. When they do a great job, some people cheer. When they are unable to save the day, some people jeer. But, one ultimate goal of both combat soldiers and police officers is to stop the source of income for those who prey on others. This involves intricate surveillance, raids, intelligence gathering, and some good old fashion nose to the grindstone.
Adam said that they wrote detailed reports and encapsulated evidence. Then, they turned it, and any prisoners, over to counter intelligence, the military police, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
He said that many times, his soldiers would catch burglars breaking into shops late at night. When they notified the business owner the following day, it was usually followed by a heart-felt thanks combined with additional useful information. He didn’t tell me how business owners reacted when they weren’t successful in thwarting criminal activity. Most humans are no longer hunter-gatherers who live in caves, but we still share in at least one common trait — our human nature is the same.
The job of combat soldiers and police officers are so closely related that it can boggle the mind. Both can incur post-traumatic stress disorder or other harrowing brain injury. Generally speaking, we think of PTSD in relationship to trauma suffered by soldiers. It is widely thought that soldiers get PTSD from a single or short experience with something very stressful. I, on the other hand, believe that PTSD can develop over time for both soldiers and police officers.
The accumulation of traumatic events over the course of a police officer’s career are often not recognized of needing special counseling. That is why when the anxiety associated with PTSD comes to the surface, it’s not recognized as PTSD. If this is not caught, police officers can become a danger to themselves and to others.
Psychological stress on police officers can be caused by restrictive policies, tons of paperwork, outdated equipment, unfavorable court judgments, repeat offenders, continuances in court, hate, and one-sided press about police methods. Other things include allegations of racism, brutality, danger, and human suffering.
Whether it is a soldier or police officer, PTSD is caused by traumatic events where the symptoms show up after the incident. The soldier or police officer who senses shocking incidents views those incidents as perilous, life threatening or appalling.
Soldiers in combat don’t offer a citizens’ soldier academy, but that doesn’t mean that their goals differ from police officers. They want to go home in one piece at the end of the day. To grow spiritually, mentally, and to be resilient in the face of danger are targets that both want to hit. They want to show citizens that soldiers and police officers are regular folks offering the best way to live in peace and freedom.