Who Trained The Cop Killers To Shoot Guns?
In the uproar about two separate shootings of police officers in Southern states that took place within 24 hours of each other.
People have seized on one common factor in these two incidents: The murderers were both angry about the the incidents of police officers shooting unarmed African-Americans that took place earlier in the week.
There’s another common factor, however: Both were trained to shoot guns by the U.S. military.
There’s a twist to this story, though: Disproportionately high numbers of police officers are veterans of the U.S. military. In fact, the Department of Justice has a program specifically dedicated to funneling soldiers leaving the military into jobs in law enforcement.
Jason Dietch, a former Navy Seal and veterans rights advocate who served as a consultant to police departments after getting out of the military, warns of the dangers of creating a conduit to move large numbers of soldiers into civilian law enforcement. He warns, “Many people who have gone to combat for any amount of time have got some stuff that they need to work on… As a matter of fact, there are good reasons to seriously evaluate whether or not that is a good idea… You’re going to continue to expose yourself to violence, tension, stress, anxiety. You come back and become a police officer, the potential for retraumatizing is very high.”
Military veterans have higher rates of gun ownership than non-veterans. They also have higher rates of mental illness.
Some people can emerge from the military and put together peaceful lives, contributing to society in meaningful ways. However, the experience of being a soldier wrecks a huge number of Americans. This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report revealing that military veterans kill themselves at an average pace of 20 suicides per day. That’s a higher rate of dead American soldiers than Al Quaida, the Taliban, or the Islamic State have ever been able to achieve.
Another Irregular Times writer points out that attempts to depict African-Americans and the police as being at war with each other are inaccurate and motivated by a desire to rush into new violations of Americans’ constitutional rights. However, the same systems that train Americans to fight in wars may be contributing to violence outside of wartime here in the United States.
The fact that time in the military is an experienced shared by police officers and the people who kill them merits more attention. It may be that if our nation didn’t have such a large military, we wouldn’t have as much criminal violence – by police officers and against them.