Where’s the Data?

By lex, on January 26th, 2012

Today’s USA Today is running an article about a new federal program to help local police departments deal with the “ticking time bomb veteran” chimera. I found elements within it rather irritating:

The Justice Department is funding an unusual national training program to help police deal with an increasing number of volatile confrontations involving highly trained and often heavily armed combat veterans.

Developers of the pilot program, to be launched at 15 U.S. sites this year, said there is an “urgent need” to de-escalate crises in which even SWAT teams may be facing tactical disadvantages against mentally ill suspects who also happen to be trained in modern warfare.

“We just can’t use the blazing-guns approach anymore when dealing with disturbed individuals who are highly trained in all kinds of tactical operations, including guerrilla warfare,” said Dennis Cusick, executive director of the Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute. “That goes beyond the experience of SWAT teams.”

Shouldn’t SWAT teams always try to de-escalate crises? Is it our usual practice to have a “blazing guns approach” with disturbed individuals? We need a federal training program for this?

The story goes on:

Cusick, who is developing the program along with institute training director William Micklus, said local authorities have a better chance of defusing violent confrontations by immediately engaging suspects in discussions about their military experience — not with force.

The aim, Micklus said, is to try to reconnect them with “a sense of integrity” lost in the fog of emotional distress.

“You can’t win by trying to out-combat them,” Cusick said. “You emphasize what it means to be a Marine, a soldier to people who now feel out of control.”

Do police officers “win” engagements with the public, even disturbed members of that public? Do those people on the receiving end then “lose” anything more important than their lives? These are public servants, performing often valiantly in situations where the public does not want to go. But there should not be a mindset of “winning” in some conflict with that public.

And here’s the kicker:

There is no data that specifically tracks police confrontations with suspects currently or formerly associated with the military. But an Army report issued this year found that violent felonies in the service were up 1% while non-violent felonies increased 11% between 2010 and 2011.

During that time, however, crime in much of the nation declined.

So, Eric Holder’s Justice Department has no data to suggest a rising wave of the perennial “disgruntled veteran” going postal, but we’re all set to develop a new federal program to deal with the threat. We analogize that since violent felonies within the services have risen a meager 1%, that there is therefore some latent pool of combat-trained – and armed! – lunatics out there bent upon going out in a blaze of glory. Which we would be all too happy to provide them with, except the good guys may take some hits too.

This has nothing to do with relaxed recruiting standards during a tough ten years of war, nor our country’s failure to develop meaningful support mechanisms for those who have borne the strains and stresses of those ten years. The important thing to realize is that there are veterans out there!!! With guns!!11!

Ergo we must have a federal program to deal with them, channeling those resources through the “Upper Midwest Community Policing Institute”.

Much of the anecdotal evidence reads like the report of the Jan. 13 standoff between Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Eisenhauer, 30, a veteran of multiple combat tours, and Fayetteville, N.C., police and firefighters.

Anecdotes, but no data. Generalizing from a specific instance to all veterans, who may be armed (!) and therefore must be considered  politically suspect dangerous.

Pop quiz: Who’s killed more law enforcement officers: Psychologically scarred veterans, or Mr. Holder’s own Justice Department?

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Neptunus Lex, Politics, Politics and Culture

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