Cops now less cautious in D.C. than soldiers in Iraq
by Jonathan Carp
October 13, 2013 10:00 PM | 955 views | 2 2 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The shooting on Capitol Hill of Miriam Carey, an unarmed woman who refused police commands to stop her car, was a familiar situation for any veteran of the Iraq War, with one significant difference — rather than moving through a progressive escalation of force while attempting to defuse the situation, Capitol Hill police officers went straight for their firearms and shot to kill.

Since returning from my service as an Army combat medic in Baghdad six years ago, I have watched American police become more aggressively violent than my fellow soldiers and I were ever trained to be.

Much of the Iraq War was about securing neighborhoods, and much of that work was done by soldiers manning checkpoints, like the checkpoints Carey drove through during the incident that led to her death. Had this incident occurred in Baghdad and not Washington, D.C., the soldiers manning the checkpoint would have first drawn their weapons as the police officers did, but before firing at the driver would have fired into the ground in front of her and into her car’s engine in an attempt to disable the vehicle, as well as employing nonlethal munitions to smash through her windshield and lasers to temporarily blind her. Capitol Hill police did none of these things. After drawing their weapons, their first response to Carey’s refusal to cooperate was to open fire in a busy area of a major city. The video shows they did not fire into the ground nor to disable her car, but clearly were aiming to kill Carey for disobeying their commands to exit her car. No nonlethal methods were attempted and nonlethal munitions, considered an essential piece of equipment for any checkpoint in Baghdad, may not have been available at these checkpoints in the U.S. capital.

In Iraq in 2007, the year I spent in Baghdad, 900 Americans were killed along with 23,000 Iraqis per IraqBodyCount.com. By comparison, in that same year 75 American policemen died violently, despite American cops outnumbering American soldiers in Iraq by a factor of four. While of course the American invasion of Iraq caused far more death and destruction than anything American police have yet done, an examination of the policies set in place by military and police leadership respectively leads to troubling conclusions. While horrendous abuses were of course perpetrated on the Iraqi people, including not least the invasion itself, police in the U.S. are regularly encouraged to behave far more aggressively toward American citizens than our officers directed us to behave toward Iraqis.

Stories of cops doing things soldiers are forbidden to do have become sadly common. In Iraq, we were instructed to spare animals as much as possible; police officers routinely gun down family pets. We were told to be as respectful as possible toward the occupants of the houses we searched and only employed “dynamic entry” when we were likely to face violent resistance; as Radley Balko has documented, dynamic entry and abuse of the inhabitants of searched homes have become routine for American police, even during investigations of nonviolent, victimless crimes. Soldiers manning our checkpoints were trained to use a range of nonlethal options before resorting to lethal force; as we saw on Capitol Hill, American police officers react first with deadly force.

Police militarization is a hot topic lately, especially in libertarian circles, but American police are beyond anything contemplated by the American military. While abuses certainly occurred in Iraq and elsewhere, our procedures as soldiers in a war zone were designed to avoid violence and protect the lives of the Iraqis, and we understood that that meant accepting some risk ourselves as soldiers. American police today appear unwilling to accept any risk whatsoever and seem willing to kill anyone and anything that could possibly be seen as a threat; according to the chief of the D.C. police, Cathy Lanier, these police officers “did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

While Lanier’s statement may be true in terms of police policy, we cannot accept those policies. Deadly force cannot be the first and last choice for dealing with any potential threat, and police officers must be trained to strive always to protect the lives of citizens, especially of suspects. Policing is a dangerous job, but as someone who has held another dangerous job, I must say that our American police need to understand and accept the risks they take when they accept the badge and understand that they are there to protect others before themselves.

Jonathan Carp is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a nurse. He lives in Tacoma, Wash.

Comments
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anonymous
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October 14, 2013
Though I disagree with this guy's group affiliation and wonder why he joined the Army if he couldn't handle the thought of war (especially if he joined post 9-11) I find myself agreeing with much of what he writes. We are living in strange times.
TCommonSenseApproach
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October 14, 2013
First, this incident with Miriam Carey was clearly considered an assassination attempt. Why else would they shoot to kill? This poor girl was depressed just as most of us are because the President is forcing his views on the rest of us and we are financially suffering. He was affecting her life as a single mom. His Obamacare is causing too much strain on the country. And, yes, he is spying on all of us. Most of us just don't take it personally like she did.

Second, the police are doing jobs that we should be doing. Protecting ourselves instead of relying on someone else to do all the work. The difference is they get paid to do and go on a power trip.

The real problem is that people need to control their own emotions and think logically, as in not with their own personal gain or through the use of substances. Nobody want to hear this but, add to it marijuana use where according to one study, "There is a whopping 70-percent increased risk of becoming schizophrenic for those who’d used marijuana just five to 10 times over their lifetime. These same researchers found that those who’d used marijuana more than 50 times in their life had a more than 600-percent increased risk of schizophrenia."

Add to it a government policing control that further triggers paranoia with taking away our freedoms, as well as spying on us, killing our God and persecuting us for our beliefs and the unstable people in this country are only going to continue to do harm and get worse. In addition, the normal people will stop tolerating it too, then everyone will be affected...
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