12
February

On use-of-force

8 Comments

My pro­fes­sion some­times involves the use-of-force.

This means that the gov­ern­ment of my country has entrusted me with training, weapons and authority to use force to accom­plish cer­tain very lim­ited goals/tasks. There is, of course, a con­tinuum of force, but it ranges up to and includes deadly force (the taking of another person’s life).

The gov­ern­ment (at least in the US) is the instru­ment of the will of the Amer­ican people. So when I say that “the gov­ern­ment” entrusts me with these weapons, training and authority, I am keenly aware that it is really THE PEOPLE (all of you) who are trusting me.

That respon­si­bility weighs heavily on me.

There are times in my life when I am tempted to use force out­side of work. I have been insulted pub­licly, some­times in front of people whose esteem I value. I have been threat­ened. About a week ago, a home­less man attacked me. These are sit­u­a­tions where some, I think, would feel that using force is justified.

Not for me. No way.

The Coast Guard are the only mil­i­tary ser­vice that strad­dles the line of both warfighters and police offi­cers, and I believe that mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and the police have a spe­cial oblig­a­tion to swallow their pride and never, EVER use force out­side of autho­rized work-related sit­u­a­tions that absolutely require it (and are ordered/sanctioned by their chain of command).

This is because the person who slapped your face in the bar, who called you a loser, who insulted your mother is a member of the pop­u­la­tion you SWORE to pro­tect and to serve. With your life if necessary.

I’m not some kind of super-ninja. The fighting skills I learned first as a mer­ce­nary and later as a uni­formed ser­vice member are in many cases not a whole lot better than the average brawler who picks a fight with me in a bar. My weapons training is prob­ably a little better than most Amer­i­cans, but there are plenty of gun-enthusiasts out there who can shoot better than I can, even in tac­tical sit­u­a­tions. Many folks are bigger and stronger and tougher than I am.

But that doesn’t matter. The people of this country said to me “Myke, we trust you to pro­tect us. We are spending our money to give you spe­cial­ized training and authority to keep us safe.”

And if I use those skills against them? If I choose to brawl instead of swal­lowing my pride and accepting some embar­rass­ment and maybe a fat lip? If I strike out against one of the people I swore on my life to pro­tect and serve?

I’ve got a word for people who do that.

Traitor.

If I feel that my life, or someone else’s life, is in real and immi­nent danger off duty, I will use force. If I am on the job, and force is nec­es­sary, autho­rized by my com­mand, my juris­dic­tion, authority and sub­stan­tive laws (and it is pru­dent, nec­es­sary and the min­imum level required by the sit­u­a­tion), then I will use force.

Oth­er­wise? I will never, ever, EVER strike another human being, under any cir­cum­stances. I will accept a black eye. I will shrug off a split lip. I will endure any insult.

I am a member of the US mil­i­tary in the one branch that also wields law enforce­ment authority. This gives me a spe­cial respon­si­bility that I always keep fore­most in my mind. Some­times people joke with me, “I bet you could kick s0-and-so’s ass.” “Man, that guy’s really lucky you were in a good mood.” “Do what Myke says or he’ll beat you up!”

Can I be honest? I don’t like those jokes. Because they don’t reflect my com­mit­ment to NEVER use vio­lence out­side cir­cum­stances where its appli­ca­tion is both crit­ical and authorized.

I can part with pride. I will never part with honor.

  • http://twitter.com/IanKrohn Ian James Krohn

    I tend to agree with yah Mr. Cole, but saying that i would not hes­i­tate to use my training to pro­tect those i find dear in life and death sit­u­a­tions.  That being said I do find it inher­ently dis­hon­or­able to use ones mil­i­tary training to gain advan­tage over other men who may or may not know exactly who they are messing with.

  • Adam Call­away

    You have my respect for life. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jefferson.tester Jef­ferson Tester

    I can respect that stance at first glance, but I ask you this. Can you always be sure your attacker will be sat­is­fied with just blood­ying you up? Too much damage to your body costs me tax dol­lars for your hos­pital stay. Too much damage to your body can cause those who depend on you unnec­es­sary grief ‚stress, and expense. Too much damage and you end up dead or unem­ployed due to med­ical discharge.

    Self defense is not nec­es­sarily always an issue of pride. If it always were, there’d be no reason for a mil­i­tary. The mil­i­tary is sup­posed to be just self defense on a national scale, after all.

    That said, I am glad to hear that you won’t go out of your way to abuse the authority and training you’ve received. Don’t martyr your­self, though, over the idea that someone might think you prideful for defending your­self. You are worth more than that to your country and your loved ones.

    Lastly, as a vet­eran of the USAF, thank you very much for your service.

  • http://www.facebook.com/c.h.leblanc Charles H. Le Blanc

    You honor your­self with your restraint. I thank you for your ser­vice and respect you for your ability to stand against the pit­fall of ego.

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  • Chuck Workman

    Thank you sir for your post, insight, and most of all ser­vice. I may not always agree with such-and-such war, but I will ALWAYS respect the sol­diers who sign up vol­un­tarily, so I’m not made to invol­un­tarily. It’s the true mea­sure of a man to be able to con­trol his temper instead of lashing out with his training.

  • Chuck Workman

    Thank you sir for your post, insight, and most of all ser­vice. I may not always agree with such-and-such war, but I will ALWAYS respect the sol­diers who sign up vol­un­tarily, so I’m not made to invol­un­tarily. It’s the true mea­sure of a man to be able to con­trol his temper instead of lashing out with his training.