I’ve been following many survival blogs and prepper sites for some time. I realize that what I am posing in this piece will be received by some as controversial or possibly taboo, but in order to get a balanced view of things, many viewpoints must be examined. That being said, I will inform the readers that I have been in law enforcement for twenty-five years, and I am able to speak from what I’ve experienced on this side of things. There are a number of plausible scenarios that could entail the imposition of martial law, gun confiscation, and suspension of habeas corpus or a range of actions in between that may come to pass. Let’s start with a little background.
First, I will admit that approximately ten years ago or so, the law enforcement community began to embrace a more “militaristic” outlook on their general job tasks. It started slowly, when I noticed at various conferences that vendors were moving to provide “tactical” equipment as a small percentage of sales. Today, these same vendors are primarily involved in ‘tactical” equipment almost solely. This, coupled with the generous offer of de-militarized equipment through the DRMO / LESO Programs to law enforcement of items we would never have been able to afford on the limited budgets, we have. Why wouldn’t police departments look to picking up equipment that could offer some useful function? But herein lies the great dilemma; what actually constitutes “useful” function for a public law enforcement agency? I would be hard-pressed to consider an MRAP in my jurisdiction, let alone the cost to fuel and maintenance of such a vehicle. Sure, it would be one impressive entry in our local festival, but beyond that I can’t justify a use for it. I might be able to use a Humvee, given the rural character of my jurisdiction, and since it’s “free”, why not? An M60, not so much. The point being is that some of these surpluses, from the winding down of Iraq and Afghanistan, can be very tempting indeed. The bigger question, which I can’t really find a good answer to from my peers, is given the crime rates (which have been actually receding downward), what are we gearing up for? I realize that there has been more attention paid to the militarization of the police lately, and quite frankly it is happening. The flip side to this argument is that BDU‘s are very practical for everyday uniform patrol duties. Tactical training does better prepare us for dangerous citizen contact. (There is a huge amount of financial stress in our communities, which can be directed towards the police.) Having as much firepower available as what we could be faced with, especially in a rural community, does even the field, and using the latest technology does help us get the bad guys a little easier, at times.
Since I’ve touched on budgets, I will tell you that public budgets have been strained for some time, and various cost-saving measures have been occurring. One such area has been the regionalization of communications. As we see less money coming into the coffers with reduced property values, dispatching centers are being consolidated to save money. This trend could transfer to actual law enforcement agencies, and in some cases it already has. Although we do not espouse to a so-called “national police agency”, I guess we could call the FBI such an agency. By continuing to consolidate agencies, one could argue that we are well on our way. However, the hard question to ask is, if it saves the tax payers money, why shouldn’t we be looking to consolidate, as long as services are maintained?
Moving to some of the original points mentioned, I assure you that should there be some type of gun confiscation effort, the federal, state, and local agencies would have to make a combined effort to pull this off. Logistically, I’m not sure even the combined efforts of approximately 750,000 law enforcement officers from all levels could do this anyway. I, for one, encourage the citizens to arm themselves for protection, as long as they train regularly, can pull the trigger when necessary, and are prepared to deal with the possible fall out afterwards. I know there are many like-minded officers who would agree with the last statement. One needs to look no further than Detroit to see the new chief advocating citizens protecting themselves through arms. Several would-be robbers and home invaders have ended with citizens killing them. There is also the growing “Constitutional Sheriff’s and Chiefs” movement, which fully supports operating within the confines of our Constitution. I believe this movement will grow, but if martial law is declared, it wouldn’t matter much since deference would be handed over to the military, who abide by a whole different set of rules for engagement. In the climate I’ve witnessed over the years, there has always been an uneasy partnership between the local LE and the federal counterparts. I’m not certain there would be full support in a scenario of an outright confiscation of weapons, as far as your local police are concerned. Your local LEs are adept with dealing with the constitution on a regular, if not daily, basis. We are constantly faced with fourth, fifth, and sixth amendment questions or situations that require split-second decisions. Of course, the law books are filled with case law on our exercise or abuse of these particular amendments, but I believe the vast majority of officers strive to remain within these parameters. We do this because we believe that the system, although dysfunctional at times, works.
Another area that I believe fits nicely into preparation is the discipline of emergency management. I have been involved for many years as a planner and drill developer, instructor, and evaluator on many disaster scenarios. One thing we always take home from these table tops, functional exercises, and full-scale drills is that citizens, by and large, are way too dependent upon government resources. At minimum, I always suggest and write regularly about having some food stores, medicine, pet supplies, and the like stocked up for any type of disaster. This “all-hazards” approach can possibly guarantee survival for the short term, in case the government resources are overwhelmed. Of course long-term, serious, logical, well thought out preparation is infinitely better and relieves some pressures on government, so we can assist those who have planned less or not at all possibly by no fault of their own. They just are not able to. I can’t tell you the number of articles, newsletters, e-mail blasts, reminders, meetings, and presentations whereby I’ve espoused the ideas of preparing. I know a few people have taken this to heart, which gives me impetus to continue and not give up. The bigger problem I see is that many people just don’t want to believe anything will change. Unfortunately, it will take a trigger event to wake up many people, and it could be too late by then.
I would be remiss not to mention the all-too-familiar media treatment that LE receives on a regular basis. I would say that the vast majority of men and women working in law enforcement are by and large dedicated, honest, and wanting to perform their duties legally and compassionately. You do not enter this business without a certain conviction to do things right. I’m not saying that there aren’t bad apples in this profession, which can be said of any line of work. Unfortunately, as one old stringer told me when I started, “Bad news makes good copy” (in the newspapers). LE is constantly second guessed, analyzed, and critiqued by media sources and others who have never been in confrontational situations. So, I tend not to put much faith in objective reporting these days. I usually go outside mainstream U.S. media to see what’s going on in this country. Remember this when watching the nightly news, if you are so inclined.
Finally, I must end with this thought for other LE’s out there. I taught for a number of years at an institution of higher education. I lectured on various courses on Administration, Community Policing, and the like. One idea I always gave to my students was that one day I would be retired and a private citizen once again. I certainly would not want to give up more liberty to empower our police. It may make my job easier at the present, but it would be too dear a price to pay in the name of terrorism, homeland security, or however it is marketed. Moreover, LE’s take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, their respective states, and their jurisdictions. I, for one, have always held this oath in high esteem, and I’m certain there are many like-minded LE’s that feel this same way. So, when the proverbial SHTF, we will be torn between several factors of providing for and protecting our families, protecting our communities, and upholding our oaths and keeping some semblance of order. The choices will be difficult at best.