Policing Others

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 the Middle East.

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

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

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

Today is not Nazi Europe when generally unwelcome Germans starting occupying neighborhing countries and those people 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 helpfu 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 or a military occupation can only be successful when the people see their police officers or soldiers as those helping them maintain peace in their neighborhoods fairly, justly and with their accord. And let’s also remember the same thing when we send our soldiers into someone else’s country.

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

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

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