Learning About Policing Others: At Home and Abroad

How is policing a city in America like our military action in Afghanistan? You may not see the similarities, but I do. My decade as a Marine and three more as a police officer has led me to think about Vietnam and our ventures in Afghanistan and other countries.

The problem we are having policing our citizens is the same problem of going into someone’s neighborhood (country) and imposing a way of life and values different from the local culture.

Just as we failed as a nation to win the “hearts and minds” of the people of Vietnam and Afghanistan, we too often fail to do this trying to police our own cities.

Eventually, I hope and pray that we will learn to stay out of other countries which really do not want us to come, occupy, and impose what we believe to be the best form of government and social practices.

Today’s challenge is not to stop the Third Reich from gobbling up Europe in the late 1930s. Remember, when our military arrived, those occupied welcomed our soldiers as liberators.

Can’t we see that failing to implement a style of policing called “community-oriented” is precisely the same kind of error we made in Vietnam and Afghanistan? The error of not being seen as helpful by the community?

There is always trouble ahead when police officers or soldiers are seen as outsiders imposing their values and way of life on a people who do not want them there in the first place.

Policing can only be successful when the people see police officers as helping by working together with them to maintain peace and safety in their neighborhoods with fairness, justice and with their accord.

This is not new thinking, it comes from a long line of current and historical experience. What’s that old warning— those of us who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it? It’s true.

Now let’s focus on making sure our local strategies for policing our nation’s cities are effective and community-oriented.


  1. Unfortunately, policing in America has been an occupation force to support and maintain the status quo of American business leaders and wealthy people since this country was founded. Police were created to help maintain slavery, put down any labor unrest, and later were used to bust up unions by various means including murder. Most cops are right-wing conservatives who have this attitude that there is no room for opposing social, political, and economic viewpoints in this country that need to be stamp out.


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