Law Enforcement: Your Friendly Neighborhood Infantry

Infantry. The American Heritage online dictionary defines the term as, “The branch of an army made up of units trained to fight on foot.” When we think of this term in the context of the military, our minds conjure up images of heavily armed soldiers working in coordinated units to engage an enemy. The soldiers, we hope, are armed with sophisticated communications and weapons systems, advanced ordinance and, perhaps most important, armor and air support. As George Orwell said, “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

While my friends in the military tell me, as I suspected, our United States Armed Forces could respond quickly to any threat by a foreign invader within our borders, the recent events in Benghazi and around the world made me think of the immediate response to an attack within our borders on an embassy, civilian government complex, shopping mall or school. While I pray we will see no more of them in our country, it occurred to me that our nation’s LEOs are the infantry in such situations.

LEOs respond quickly to all calls for service and calls for civil unrest are particularly capable of invoking high levels of adrenaline. Anyone who has responded to such a call is praying to get there as quickly as possible…and hoping you arrive at the same time as 100 other LEOs! The reality is that any such attack in the United States would bring an immediate response, within four minutes in my county, of uniformed LEOs ready to protect and preserve life and property.

Although the public has accepted some of the role of LEOs as the neighborhood infantry in the case of active shooters, even on a military base like Fort Hood, many are reluctant to fully acknowledge that the role of LEOs in our modern society has expanded tremendously. Modern LEOs in the United States have evolved to train and prepare to be the first responders to everything from holdups to hostage situations and domestic disputes to domestic terrorism. In reality, that role should logically be expanded even further to prepare our LEOs to be the first responders to acts of international terrorism committed within our borders. The attacks of 9/11 occurred from above and took tremendous planning. The recent attacks in Benghazi took far less coordination.

Despite the logic of this argument, some will still question the need for law enforcement agencies to purchase specialized equipment, patrol rifles, and additional training. People will continue to second guess LEOs who become more suspicious of equivocal activity around targets that may be of high value to potential terrorists. However, it is too easy to dismiss the events overseas as “international” and we do so at our own peril.

So the next time you see a LEO on a traffic stop, at your child’s school, in the mall or anywhere else, I hope you will see the person in uniform in a different light. They are the first responders to all domestic emergencies, large or small, coordinated or spontaneous, from innocent demonstrations to terrorist attacks. In an environment of budget cuts, furloughs and benefit reductions, remember those efforts may result in having one less pair of boots to engage the enemy. Stay safe.

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