June 19, 2017

The issue of war veterans in a police department

USA Today - The debate over the militarization of America’s police has focused on the accumulation of war-grade vehicles and artillery and the spread of paramilitary SWAT teams. What has gone largely unstudied, however, is the impact of military veterans migrating into law enforcement. Even as departments around the country have sought a cultural transformation from “warriors” to “guardians,” one in five police officers are literally warriors, returned from Afghanistan, Iraq or other assignments.

The majority of veterans return home and reintegrate with few problems, and most police leaders value having them on the force. They bring with them skills and discipline that police forces regard as assets. But an investigation by the USA Today Network and The Marshall Project indicates that the prevalence of military veterans also complicates relations between police and the communities they are meant to serve.

To the obvious question — are veterans quicker to resort to force in policing situations? — there is no conclusive answer. Reporters obtained data from two major-city law enforcement agencies and considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting veterans are more likely to get physical, and some police executives agree.

But any large-scale comparison of the use of force by veterans and non-veterans is hampered by a chronic lack of reliable, official record-keeping on police violence.

Some other conclusions about military veterans in the police force emerged more clearly:
Veterans who work as police are more vulnerable to self-destructive behavior — alcohol abuse, drug use and, attempted suicide.

Hiring preferences for former service members that tend to benefit whites disproportionately make it harder to build police forces that reflect and understand diverse communities, some police leaders say.
Most law enforcement agencies, because of factors including a culture of machismo and a number of legal restraints, do little or no mental health screening for officers who have returned from military deployment, and they provide little in the way of treatment.

No comments: