- - Thursday, August 28, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In The Washington Times editorial “When cops play soldier” (Web, Aug. 15) the writer proclaims, “[P]olice departments don’t need the arms of an army.” This sweeping statement comes as a reaction to events in Ferguson, Mo., but ignores the truths about violent crime in the United States.

In an infamous bank robbery in Los Angeles in 1997, two men armed with automatic rifles and Kevlar vests fired on police and civilians. The incident ended with two dead and multiple gunshot victims. The reason it took so long to stop these heavily armed robbers was that the police were outgunned. Police officers had to go to a gun shop nearby in order to find weapons that could penetrate the body armor that the robbers were wearing. Police departments across the country paid attention to this case and began to equip their officers with appropriate weapons to face these types of situations.

Fast-forward to 1999 in the well-known Columbine High School shooting. Two heavily armed shooters killed 12 fellow students indiscriminately before killing themselves. Police officers arrived on the scene, but did not enter the school for an extended period of time owing to a lack of experience with these types of violent scenarios and insufficient tactical readiness. This was another wake-up call for police departments and law-enforcement leaders, who realized it was time to ensure that not only SWAT teams, but first-responder patrol officers, too, were properly equipped and trained to handle the most violent incidents.

Police departments have evolved in their tactics and equipment in response to the ever-changing tactics used by the criminal elements of society. This involves updating weapons, training and tactics. Sadly, these tactics and heavy equipment have been needed repeatedly in numerous active-shooter incidents across our country. Therefore, when we see police officers with helmets, rifles and armored vehicles, it is not a reflection of their supposed innate desire to be armed and scary, but rather a reflection of the unfortunate, violent reality that they must defend against within our own society.

A call to “demilitarize” the police is an overreaction with dire consequences. If we see the rifles and armored cars disappear, the ability of police to safely respond to terrible violent episodes will also disappear. If your child were a student at a school shooting, would you prefer that the police stand outside and wait for it to quiet down, or would you prefer that the police officers have the appropriate equipment to make entry, risk their lives and confront the threat? If you want the latter, then you should stop complaining, because the “militarized” capabilities may very well be what save innocent lives one day. If your complaints are about how police responded to protests in Ferguson, then please limit your critique to Ferguson.

BURKE BROWNFELD

Alexandria

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