The FBI agents arrived as expected, though they took up a few of the parking spaces for my own young troops that were working shift that day. When I looked out of my office window I sighed and thought to myself, “typical government agents.” I had deliberately marked those spaces off and told the agents they needed to park next door before their arrival. I strode outside and calmly but firmly asked the first agent I saw to get their guys’ gear packed up and moved over to the next parking area so my own people could use their own parking lot. I received a dark glare in response, but he grudgingly moved his two dozen or so agents, their heavy weapons, armored and unmarked SUVs, and the various listening and breeching devices they had to the next lot over.
Christ, what an asshole.
I’ll be damned if I let some dipshit civilian agents take up the parking spaces of my own troops. I’ve already got a chip on my shoulder from reading you lot’s opinions about law enforcement, and being a LEO myself, it’s hard not to get that nagging feeling that if I’m going to be principled about this then I’ll make sure every other prick I’ve got to work with is too.
It isn’t long before the rest of the FBI equipment starts arriving. Blackhawks, armored carriers, and a few other odds and ends that would make the tinfoil hat wearers’ skins crawl. This, of course, is all happening within the United States. I voice my displeasure to my boss, who is well aware of my leanings, and he just shrugs and says that we aren’t involved, we’re just letting them use our parking lot.
Most days, that’s the best answer I can get.
I must preface the rest of this by saying that military law enforcement is not like civilian law enforcement. My jurisdiction ends at the gates except under extremely special circumstances where there is an immediate danger to life or national security. There are very, very few circumstances where that is the case and for the most part we are quite content to sit on our own little plot of land and protect our assets and the other military personnel, their families, and the support civilians who use them. There are a lot of other differences related to military law and the various responsibilities of commanders and such. That’s not really what this post is about though. It is kind of a two-for-one post about police reform and using tactical leadership to live out libertarian principles.
As much as I hate to do so, I try to follow the police shootings that make the news. I am not a legal eagle. I can only make judgments based on what is shown to me by the extremely biased news and I can only look at so much news before I have to find something else to do that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out with a wooden spoon. Every single shooting on the news in recent memory makes me cringe.
You see, the thing I dislike most in life is a person who is unwilling to reflect on their own weaknesses or shortcomings. I don’t hate them, it’s more like pity, and nothing fills me with more pity than watching some untrained lackey in a uniform tap dance around the fact that they fucked up. They fucked up real bad and it cost someone their life when there are clear (at least to me) alternatives. Worse, I listen to the excuses of their defenders…their bosses, the public, the families. It is here that I need to remind the readers that there is a lot that goes on in the background that we may not hear about, but I can tell you from a law enforcement perspective that not enough occurs for it to make a meaningful difference. When I see the excuses being made to the public, what I see is what is happening behind the scenes. The chiefs are raging about image and the lawyers are making up public releases. The other cops are busting the balls of the shooter, maybe even shunning them. At the end of it all, “cooler heads prevail” and someone decides that we can’t let the public see us admitting a mistake because it emboldens our enemies and weakens trust.
That’s all total horseshit. If it were up to me, Attorney General Mustang, I would put every cop on trial that fired their gun and they would be subject to the same rights, prosecution, and defense that every other civilian is entitled to. I want them to consider every round before it leaves the chamber and I want to eliminate, no, decimate every police union that has ever existed. Grind it up into dust and scattered to the winds with their union bosses (metaphorically) strung up for the world to see that if you become a law enforcement officer, you had better be the best, and you had better be prepared to defend every action you take ON YOUR OWN, just like every other human being you are supposed to be protecting. I would not oppose doubling the punishments against law enforcement officers for committing even the smallest offense.
A secondary part that you are all familiar with is reducing the number of laws that officers must enforce. This is a huge deal. There is no possible way to effectively police every law on the books and it doesn’t matter how much money is in the budget. The task that goes hand-in-hand with this item is the elimination of funding from tickets. A military law enforcement officer may write tickets on base, but not one cent goes towards the unit’s budget. That this isn’t the case for civilian law enforcement is so perverse that it needs to be at the top of the list for criminal justice reform. Furthermore, not everything even needs a damn law. This is pretty well covered on a daily basis around here, but it is sufficient to say that the state of law in this country is an abhorrent mess…is it any wonder that a cop can’t make an effective judgment call if they can’t even understand the law they’re supposed to be enforcing?
A third item worth addressing is the standards for recruitment. They’re abysmal. Special forces applicants undergo extensive psychological testing to determine their ability to make decisions under pressure and accomplish the mission. It would be perfectly acceptable to subject law enforcement applicants to a standard that is at least as rigorous without the emphasis on destruction. In fact, I propose the opposite of destruction. Whereas special operators are expected to mete out absolute death in the circumstances they are ordered into, we should establish a system for law enforcement applicants where they are expected to mete out absolute life so that the citizens they are protecting can be assured that when an officer responds they are going to do everything within their power to keep people alive. Here’s the real catch that will send current officers into a frothing mess: law enforcement officers must do this for people who are actively breaking the law. If a perpetrator dies, officers should be subjected to a trial wherein it is determined whether or not the officer did everything in their power to keep the perpetrator alive. An officer who has passed a mental exam reserved for special operators but who would die to protect a victim and a perpetrator would be an impressive officer indeed.
Officers must remember that they are a part of the community, even if they are coming from far away. This is something I have to remind my own troops of on a regular basis. It never fails that there is always at least one “supercop” who feels it is their absolute duty to ticket any and every offense to the maximum extent. At my last assignment, I had an individual who would line the cars up on the streets as they passed by and go down the line writing tickets. I quickly put a stop to this. It is complete and utter nonsense and hurts the community far more than it helps protect them. At every assignment I’ve been to I’ve had to rein in “supercop.” I’ve often heard the rebuttal “the law is the law” and to some extent that is true, however, I often find myself applying the NAP to decide on the application of the law. Often, this results in me simply turning someone around who may be bringing an illegal substance into my jurisdiction.
I’ve also been hit square in the face with the realization that it’s not just the “supercops” who fall victim to the idea that cops are the only thing standing between civilization and anarchy. On at least one occasion, an individual I was well acquainted with and who was a director for another unit came up to me one day and asked if it was normal for my officers to place their hands on their weapons when approached. I was a bit taken aback. This has never been standard practice since I’ve been in. In fact, we are specifically taught to keep our hands in front so as not to escalate a situation. The director informed me that during his usual early morning walk through his supply yard, coffee cup in hand, he was approached by one of my officers who had his hand on his weapon and was demanding ID. While I don’t expect the officer to recognize everyone on base, I do expect them to compose themselves in a professional manner when they are out in the community. Upon calling up my training section and initiating more focused efforts on community relations (and basic fucking police tactics, like don’t hold your gun like a scared little twerp), I quickly found out that all the “war on cops” rhetoric in recent years was weighing on my very young group of officers. I created a brief presentation on the actual statistics on violent crime and police deaths, one which was well received and proved to be a relief for my officers.
Here is where I can tie in the use of body cameras. I believe they are a wonderful tool because in my limited experience, the officer will never tell the whole truth. I do not necessarily believe that they intentionally lie at all times, however, an uneducated individual that was hired using poor standards might be inclined to forget incriminating circumstances or less likely to take in the entire set of circumstances they find themselves in. The public should demand body cameras for all their officers and not only that, there must be a punishment associated with not using them. We use fail safes in many other professions to learn what went wrong and apply those lessons in the future. If these officers have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear. Standard libertarian disclaimer: I don’t believe this saying applies to private citizens. It absolutely applies to government employees.
I wish I could say that it’s just bad apples, but that would be a lie. As a young officer, this became apparent to me very quickly following a meeting I had with local police chiefs. I was asked to provide my antiterrorism expertise for an event and, having never done something like this before, I was eager to talk about the subject. It wasn’t long into the meeting that I found out they weren’t really interested in terrorism. There was only a passing interest in looking for backpack bombs or something else of that nature. No, the real threat was that a group of gun rights advocates were preparing to attend the event as well with their firearms in full view. The discussion quickly turned away from spotting the real threats to this “extremist militia.” I attempted to bring the discussion back around by pointing out that anyone who is open carrying and minding their own business is going to be the least of your concerns when looking for terror threats, but to no avail. I left the discussion at the first break, disgusted by what I had learned.
It is with this little bit of background that I came up with a subject called “tactical libertarianism.” I know some of you will cringe at the concept of applying military terms to this philosophy, but it’s how I think and it’s what works for me. The idea stems from my training as a Special Reaction Team leader (a kind of SWAT) and from some experience overseas. The basic premise to me is that each individual that makes up a team must be responsible for themselves, first and foremost, so that the team is not carrying them in life threatening situations. How does this apply to libertarianism?
Every person, whether we like it or not, is a part of a team. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but in general, most of us can look around and see the team framework all around us. It could be a family unit, a group of friends, coworkers, etc. As libertarians, we often joke about being antisocial, the tiniest of political minorities, insignificant on any stage worth noting. I believe, however, that that is not the case. To me, there is nothing mightier than an individual who recognizes their own self-worth and can apply that to a team construct.
A fire team encourages each other. They bust each other’s balls. They push each other in the gym and help each other through tough times, but ultimately, they all know that the individual must make the conscious effort to be the best they can be for the team. An individual who doesn’t measure up, who drags the team down, is dropped.
In normal society, however, we can’t just drop someone because they drag us down. We have obligations to each other for various reasons (no, this isn’t some social contract fuckery, I’m just talking about the ties we have with the individuals around us that we voluntarily create). As libertarians, we tend to be stronger mentally because of our unceasing desire to better ourselves as individuals. We constantly look inward, challenge ourselves to find cracks in our armor, seek out knowledge and arguments, and look around us to better understand the world we live in.
Tactical libertarianism is the idea that when we, as libertarians, recognize our being part of a team, we can push the entire team forward to become stronger than it was before. You push yourself to be healthier, stronger, more financially stable, more educated, and more individualistic because of your unwavering support for the libertarian philosophy. If you model libertarianism and stand on principle within the framework of the teams you are a part of, you might find yourself able to lead the team forward because of what you have pushed yourself to do. In fact, I actively encourage that leadership. The joke is often said here that anyone who seeks a position of power is exactly the type of person who shouldn’t have it. I agree. The difference here is that by consciously acknowledging the corrupting effect of power in a position, and then making the decision to give up that power upon the expiration of your time in that position, you have already proven that you are in some way qualified to hold those positions. George Washington did not seek to be President, but he did not hide from that duty either.
An example of tactical libertarianism I will use has to do with active shooter scenarios. As the person who is considered the authority for all things violent crime-related on base, I am tasked with teaching the local populace the best way to handle a situation where someone has opened fire around you. Beyond the usual “run, hide, fight” stuff you may be familiar with, I have taken the liberty of adding violent crime statistics from the FBI into my training to show the real trend of shootings (it’s going down, regardless of how they screw up the definition). I pushed to have “run, hide, fight” clarified by my chain of command so that people understand that it doesn’t have to be in this order. You must decide what is most advantageous to your survival and follow through.
I emphasize in my training that the individual must decide how they will behave before being confronted with these dangerous situations. I’ve been given feedback that this has helped people in other situations, not just dangerous ones, where they prepare themselves ahead of time to act and it is easier to follow through later. While this may seem obvious, it is often taken for granted. This is something of a new concept in the world of stopping violent crime (especially the fight part).
As part of my training, I also began advocating that people carry a firearm whenever possible. In the context of an active shooter scenario, it is very easy to show how modern firearms are a great benefit to the individual. I have gone so far as to push for concealed carry on base (for some reason this is controversial…). A briefing that I gave made its way up and convinced some important people to allow concealed carry in certain circumstances on the installation. It’s a small step in the right direction. This is how I’ve chosen to lead my little corner of the tactical environment based on the libertarian principles of individual responsibility (deciding beforehand) and self-defense.
You may find that as you place yourself into positions to assist the team at a tactical level, leadership roles will be placed on you because of your ability to stand up and look around to see what needs to be fixed. Someday, that tactical libertarianism may expand to an operational level, or even a strategic level, but it starts right back with the fire team…the small group of individuals we each helped to move forward.
The point isn’t to propel libertarianism into some political wave to sweep the nation. It isn’t to turn it into some militaristic shadow of its former self. The point is to help your family. It’s to help your community. In doing so, you take part in and enjoy explaining the principles behind what makes it all work, the team building and organization that stems from individuals working together, without government assistance, to prove what they can do. No politician can withstand a principled individual and no government could ever hope to withstand a principled team that is the foundation of a principled community.