Editor's note: In last month's issue of POLICE, editor David Griffith wrote an editorial detailing his reasons for supporting George W. Bush in the upcoming presidential election. In the interest of fairness, this month's editorial was written by a police officer who takes the opposing view.
Yes, I support John Kerry for president. But that doesn’t make me un-American. As members of the law enforcement community, we share uncompromising beliefs. Our mission is to serve and protect our citizens while keeping in mind rule #1: Everybody goes home at the end of the shift. We should be able to agree that our differences are only in the details. We need to respect differing views and agree that the true enemy, terrorism, must be destroyed.
Regardless of the outcome of this year’s presidential election, our national strategy will remain finding terrorist and bringing them to justice. We all agree on the goal, but not on the tactics used to reach it.
The current administration pursues a plan of conventional warfare that depends on massive troop movements with armor, artillery, and air support. While such tactics worked against the battalions of Iraq, they have little effect against an invisible enemy.
What works are small units of special forces living among people. These soldiers become part of the community and learn their customs so that people trust them enough to reveal the identity and location of terrorist.
Criminal terrorists are not warriors, but criminals. People living in areas where they operate do not want them there any more than our citizens want drug dealers controlling their neighborhoods.
We know how this works; we call it “Community Oriented Policing Services.” COPS has been a stunning success in ridding our neighborhoods of crime and making our job safer (see rule #1).
Kerry has committed to increasing the number of U.S. Special Forces operators. This single point will do more to achieve victory than all the hardware in our inventory.
You know this to be true; you live this on the streets every single day. This is how we serve and protect. When we earn our citizens’ trust they provide the intelligence needed.
Kerry’s plans are based upon the COPS model and that is something we know to be effective in application. It is a process that wins the hearts and minds of the citizens, thus ending the cycle that creates future terrorism.
When Kerry promised to conduct operations in a more sensitive manner, he recognized the value in how we police our communities and adapted our tactics for use against criminal terrorists.
But rather than addressing whether the idea was sound, Kerry’s opposition attacked a single word: sensitive. How would you describe COPS? It’s not easy to describe it succinctly. Complex ideas do not readily translate into one-word definitions.
Like most of you, I have received a great deal of training during the last couple of years on subjects related to terrorism and terrorist events. Most of the money is being spent teaching us how to respond to an event.
The most sensible money has been spent on training oriented toward finding the terrorists before they strike. The central theme in all of those courses is based upon two basic premises.
First, know your enemy. Learn who he is, what he believes, and what has caused him to choose terrorism. We need to know these things because the terrorists will eventually deviate from the standard criminal norm and commit an act that has no profit motive.
Second, know the land and people where your enemy operates. Again, the people living in the shadow of terrorism do not want this any more than those who are terrorized by the armed gangs involved in the drug trade.
By learning the customs and beliefs of those who live in constant fear of terrorism in their own homes, we will know how to gain their trust. When that happens, the war is won.
I am voting for John Kerry for many reasons, however, if the only consideration were his strategy against terrorism, he would still get my vote.
Constable David Mason of Henderson County (Tenn.) District 5 has more than 25 years of combined law enforcement and military service.
Click here to read David Griffith's editorial (POLICE, September, 2004) explaining his reasons for voting for George W. Bush.