U.S. Army Special Forces and Law Enforcement? MILITARIZATION OF POLICE! Now before you start typing away, let’s discuss this. What do I mean by this, what can a police department use from U.S. Army Special Forces? Training? Leadership? Close Quarter Battle? Or am I referring to something more? Let me be clear, in no way am I saying that Police Officers are Special Forces. The reason why I am drawing this analogy is to get you, the reader, to think about it.
These days we are inundated with news about U.S. Army Special Forces conducting raids or engaging in firefights throughout the world. Movies and TV Shows imply Special Forces members, like Rambo, take on entire battalions of combat soldiers. Totally unrealistic. Likewise, for police, TV Shows and movies have always idolized the renegade cop who doesn’t care about the rules, uses extreme excessive force, but he/she gets the job done. Again, totally unrealistic.
Now let’s look at the structure of a police department. Although each police department in the country is different based on the needs of their community, I’m going to paint a general picture. A police department has a Chief/Sheriff/Superintendent, Deputy Chief(s), Major(s), Captain(s), Lieutenants(s), Sergeant(s), and Patrol Officers. This is the basic chain of command for any police department.
Now let’s examine the various units within a police department: Patrol Division, Gang units, K9 Units, SWAT, Street Crimes Unit, Problem-Oriented Policing Unit, Community Service Unit, Bomb technicians, Narcotic Unit, Anti-Crime Unit, Community Service Unit, an Airwing Unit, a Maritime Unit, Major Crimes Unit (Detectives), and an intelligence unit. I may have missed one or two more but again this is a general description of how major police departments are structured. Smaller departments commonly pool resources and request mutual aid from larger departments. I am going to break them down further and draw the analogy of how Special Forces Doctrine applies to Law Enforcement.
There are many missions of the Special Forces, but I am going to focus on two of their missions: Unconventional Warfare (UW) and Direct Action (DA) missions. Patrol Officers, SWAT, K9 Units, Narcotic Unit, Street Crimes units, are your DA units. Their primary mission is to be that brute force for the police department–the hammer. Narcotics, Street Crimes, K9, and various other similar units investigate, exploit, cultivate, target specific individuals within the community that are involved in drugs, guns, shootings, killings, and other very violent offenses.
Problem-Oriented Policing Units, Community Service Units, Intelligence Units, and other similar units are the UW units of the police department. Their primary mission is what we call “quality of life” type of issues in their respective cities. What are quality of life issues? The broken window theory is an example. The broken window theory was proposed by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982. They used the phrase “broken window” as a metaphor for disorder within neighborhoods. Their theory links disorder and incivility within a community. Click on this link for more information on the theory.
Let’s define UW. The Department of Defense (DOD) defines UW as activities to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow a government or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.
How is this applied in law enforcement? Let’s say for example a known drug dealer is plaguing the area with Fentanyl. A police UW unit would go into the affected area, work with the neighborhood, talk to the addicts, teach people in the neighborhood how to detect drug dealings. Eventually, in short order, the dealer or dealers are arrested.
The people of that neighborhood feel more empowered and trained to deal with any future issue and the trust in the police is gained. This is winning hearts and minds. Take the part of UW’s definition of overthrowing an occupying power i.e. drug dealer, and add enabling a resistance movement i.e. a neighborhood, to assist in overthrowing (arresting) the occupying power (drug dealer). How do we win hearts and minds? By embedding ourselves in the community–not sitting in a cruiser with the windows up and not talking to people. Law enforcement wins hearts and minds by playing sports with the neighborhood youth. This is how to earn their trust and respect. Special Forces have been doing this for decades. They go into hostile villages and work to get the entire village on their side through UW.
Police UW units apply this theory by going to the heart of issues in a neighborhood. They do not just focus on criminals, but they ask the question of “why.” They make partners of people from within the community. They dress in regular clothes, drive regular cars instead of police cars, and are very personable officers who can truly make an impact in a neighborhood. They solve problems through UW.
Now let’s change UW to policing terms. Let’s call it Unconventional Policing (UP). What does that mean? UP means not every situation requires handcuffs. It is looking at a problem and solving it by thinking “outside the box.” This is effective because it employs unconventional methods of teaching the community to help itself.
A UP unit I had the pleasure of being a part of, was called the Problem-Oriented Policing unit in the City where I work. It was a brand-new unit and two officers and a Lieutenant (LT) were selected as members. An officer and I, under the command of an LT, met to discuss our mission and purpose. It was broad and left a lot of room for imagination to execute. We were given a long leash where we didn’t respond to calls for service. Instead, our mission was to find the root causes of issues in our city and fix it. We had to deal with addicts, parolees, violent offenders, persons who cause the most calls for service, locations that cause the most calls for service, etc.
As a UP unit, we were given a huge task for just three of us. As the days and weeks went on, we developed SOPs. My partner and I were driving around one night, and it hit us as we were talking. “DUDE, LET’S ADOPT SPECIAL FORCES DOCTRINE AND WIN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF PEOPLE.” Just that sentence alone changed how we looked at everything. We were unconventional in our approaches in dealing with issues around the city. In one swoop, when we got involved, a situation was quickly resolved. We used our departmental crime analyst to find troubled locations based on numbers. We needed a lot of data in order to effectively serve those neighborhoods.
One example: A patrol division was plagued with calls for service at a known drug house. The landlord allowed any known criminal element to move into a room, usually a bedroom, and charged them $500 or more to include their welfare cards. The patrol division would have to continually respond multiple times a day for fights, overdoses, drug dealing, stabbings, etc. One day, a call for service went out for a reported stabbing. Multiple units showed up at this house. As the patrol division was working the situation, I walked around and noticed a disabled man living in what looked like a bathroom. On top of that, he had MRSA disease. He was not being treated at all and I had to get an ambulance for him to be transported to a local hospital. I then made some observations of the structure of the home and noted several electrical and wiring issues. In short, I ended up getting the building condemned and all the crime and issues that came with that building disappeared. Neighborhood kids played outside again, residents were no longer worried about the criminal element.
An approach using unconventional policing is needed in this day in age. The DA approach also has its place in policing. When SWAT hits a specific target of a gang, drug, or gun organization, they are cutting the head off of the snake. Those approaches are needed at times. The use of unconventional policing aids and builds trust and partnership between the community and the police. It isn’t this us vs. them mentality, it is about working together to make our communities safer.
Think about it.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on October 12, 2020.
Ayman Kafel is the founder and owner of Hybrid Wolf Blue Line Strategies, LLC. A veteran-owned training and consulting company for Law Enforcement officers and agencies. He combines his military and law enforcement experience to bring much-needed cutting-edge training to the law enforcement profession.
Ayman is not only an active police officer but also a law enforcement instructor and has taught across the East Coast of the United States. He offers a wide variety of training, such as advanced patrol tactics, mechanical breaching courses, designated marksman, and Human Performance under duress.
In addition, Ayman is an Army Combat Veteran who was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. He became a police officer in 2007 after 8 years of service in the Army
Ayman has seen the ugliness of war and evil in the world. He survived two civil wars prior to immigrating to the United States in the late eighties.
His current position is the commander of his department’s Problem-Oriented Policing Unit. He leads a team of investigators that employs unconventional methods and Special Forces philosophy in achieving specific objectives in the communities he serves. These unconventional methods range from winning hearts and minds to specific strategic law enforcement actions to arrest and prosecute those who are the root cause of various crimes.
To reach Ayman, feel free to email him at hwbluelinestrategies
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.