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Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL (Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2000) POLICE QUARTERLY THE MYTH OF THE “MILITARY MODEL” OF LEADERSHIP IN LAW ENFORCEMENT THOMAS J. COWPER New York State Police Law enforcement is generally understood to be a paramilitary pursuit based on a specific “military model” of leadership and organization. This article analyzes the so-called military model in law enforcement and dispels the notion that police officers and their departments are patterned after the real military.
It draws on the author’s personal experience as well as on historical works and military doctrinal publications. It illustrates the problems caused within policing by the false assumptions about military leadership, structure, and doctrine and then outlines the potential benefits to policing of a more correct understanding and application of valid military concepts and methodologies. It is a commonly accepted law enforcement notion that police agencies of the free world today are designed on the “military model” of organization and leadership.Modern analogies either lionize that model or deride it as utterly inappropriate for a civil police force. Neither view is correct: There are two military models, each based on a largely symbolic, limited, and inaccurate understanding of military doctrine and practice.
One is a vicious parody, combining absurdist fiction such as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 with a narrow view based on individual military experiences.The other is an imaginary (and inflated) heroic vision, wrapped in the flag of a different category of fiction, from the cinema accounts of Sergeant York and Audie Murphy to the Rambo and Delta Force genre. Both do a grievous disservice to both the military and the police: Each in its own way makes the military a scapegoat for the ineptitude, structural absurdities, bad management, and outright criminality in police work that are the legacies of the politicization of the American police throughout their history.This article will not attempt to justify or defend every military practice, policy, or procedure throughout history as either good or applicable to policPOLICE QUARTERLY Vol. 3 No. 3, September 2000 © 2000 Sage Publications, Inc.
228–246 Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 229 ing. Clearly, the military has had more than its share of abusive commanders and unenlightened organizational policies.What it will attempt to do is dispel the notion of a single military leadership model that needs to be rejected—a stereotypical model based on authoritarian, centralized control of mindless subordinates conditioned to shoot first and ask questions later (Kopel & Blackman, 1997). This fallacious notion is causing many progressive police decision makers to ignore or reject a vast body of knowledge and experience—organizational structures, training and development philosophies, methods of operation, and practical leadership—that could radically improve the way law enforcement agencies conduct the business of policing.In fact, police commanders who understand strategic and tactical decision making and can incorporate effective operational planning techniques as well as organizational command and control methodologies into the conduct of police operations will increase our ability as peacekeepers to successfully resolve crisis situations without the use of military assistance, ordnance, heavy weaponry, and excessive violence. A number of superficial similarities lend themselves to the military comparison.
Police departments tend to be organized with rank structures and uniforms and incorporate many of the various accouterments of the armed forces, designed in large measure to set cops apart from mere civilians and signal obvious membership in an organization that wields the immediate force of government. Many police executives desire for their agencies strict uniformity, respect for the chain of command, and the sharp, professional appearance of parade ground soldiers patterned after military style organization and discipline.Many individual officers themselves enjoy the apparent status and prestige afforded by a traditional association with the elite warrior class in society. Proponents of this model are quick to use symbolic “war on crime” rhetoric to justify its strict, top-down command-and-control style as essential to both the police crime suppression mandate and the requirement o control armed police officers. On the other hand, critics of the model deride it as being excessively rigid, centrally controlled by micromanaging bureaucrats, autocratic, secretive, intellectually and creatively constraining, and highly resistant to any initiative that would allow employee participation in the operational decision making process of the organization.
Furthermore, many behaviorists, modern management scientists, and civil libertarians assert that the military model, this conflict oriented, overly rigid, and centrally controlled bureaucratic organizational structure, fosters aggressive and confrontational behavior by police officers toward the public (Weber, 1999). 230 POLICE QUARTERLY (Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2000) Time and again, the military model is held up as portraying the absolute antithesis of an enlightened progressive, people-oriented approach to organizational management and structure.Chains of command are derided as too restrictive and rank structures as too authoritarian; uniform appearances and strict discipline are criticized for creating rigid and inflexible mind-sets. Many cops themselves purge terms such as tactics and operations and doctrine from their vocabulary at every opportunity, lest they acquire the bankrupt trappings of militaristic brutes through mere word association.
And yet, proponents of the military model continue to uphold the paramilitary tradition, imposing control and commanding authority with strict discipline and reveling in many of the customs and courtesies that have been a part of the martial lifestyle for centuries. During the years, progressive chiefs of police have gone to great lengths to distance themselves and their agencies from the contamination of militarism.Attempts were made to substitute traditional military style uniforms with blazers and ties or nonthreatening colors such as white and beige; formal titles and positions have been eliminated in some agencies, replaced with the less Spartan, more civilian appellations such as “police agent”; and the black and white full-sized patrol car has at times been traded in for less traditional, less aggressive colors and styles. 1 And yet despite the ritics, many within the policing community still desire the looks and feel of strict militarism and work to maintain the appearance of policing as a sort of Spartan brotherhood of domestic warriors keeping America safe for democracy. The community-oriented policing (COP) phenomenon has only added fuel to the fire, as many COP proponents assume that military thinking is incompatible with the philosophy of empowerment necessary for today’s free-thinking and free-acting line officers.
Many attempts to depart from the military model by creating new forms of organizational benevolence and workplace democracy were miserable and obvious failures. If others failed to create revolutionary new methods for running police departments, they at least succeeded in curtailing the more egregious pathologies attributed to the military model—an abusive workplace environment, top-down micromanagement, and overly aggressive, narrowly thinking enforcement-oriented officers (Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1990).And through it all, the uniforms and the mannerisms and the supposed authoritarian military style of doing business continues to be a popular organizational model for police departments. The fundamental question that has never been asked is, Do these socalled attributes, rejected out of hand by some and desperately clung to by Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 231 others, truly reflect any model used or practiced by the military?Does the centralized control, micromanagement, and an authoritarian boot camp style of leadership come from actual military practice and policy? Did it ever? If so, then the efforts to distance policing from the originators and proponents of such conventions is a wise one. But if our perception of the military and its so-called model are flawed, then we are advocating a move that, at best, disregards a significantly large category of experience and learning from our collective consideration and potential benefit.
At worst, it causes us to reject the very model of organization and leadership that we should be striving to emulate, because at least conceptually, organized policing and organized war fighting should be approached in very similar manners. Both advocates and opponents of the military model base their positions on faulty assumptions and limited knowledge. The modern military is not the top-down, centrally controlled monolith that many traditional police managers cherish and forward-thinking police progressives decry.American military officers are not trained to be the arrogant martinets that generations of police supervisors have aspired to emulate, and their doctrine does not demand the blind obedience of mindless brutes commonly attributed to military culture by its many detractors. A careful and open-minded examination of current military theory and practice will reveal an approach to organization and leadership that is radically different from what both advocates of the military model and its critics within law enforcement currently believe.
What is found instead is a thoroughly professional approach based on careful analysis of the arena in which they operate and a comprehensive understanding of the theories and doctrines that create success. Instead of accepting or rejecting supposed military methods and leadership models based on insufficient or inaccurate knowledge and a distorted notion of reality, we need to thoroughly examine the profession we claim to emulate.Police organization and military organization attempt to accomplish very similar ends. Both involve the application of governmentally sanctioned force, in the ultimate sense, in the form of a combined use of men and materials organized and structured to solve a myriad of problems concerning conflicts with and resistance to that government’s determined will. Both use a variety of means other than direct force to accomplish their respective missions while maintaining continuum of force options as a last resort.
Both employ a wide assortment of specialists and units against multiple opponents simultaneously. Both engage in operations such as peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, and life saving, as well as the direct and forcible intervention in the affairs of others. Both must deal effectively with the civilian 232 POLICE QUARTERLY (Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2000) FIGURE 1: Conceptual Similarities Between Military and Policing Professions populations in and around their areas of operation and solve problems to succeed.And both are constrained in their efforts by externally applied Rules of Engagement that limit the amount of force they can apply at a particular time and place based on the totality of existing operational and political circumstances as perceived and determined by civilian decision makers and the law.
2 THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE Although it may be true that the world’s military forces have produced their share of abusive autocrats and micromanaging dictators, it is equally true—but usually overlooked—that throughout history, the military has worked diligently to eliminate them from its ranks.Like businesses, the military must create atmospheres conducive to creative thinking, individual initiative, and even audacious independent action on the part of subordinates in combat, because it is essentially those human qualities that give one army the advantage over an equally formidable—sometimes a much more formidable—force. As far back as 1000 B. C. , military theorists and generals wrote in great detail about what motivates men to fight and die and win in combat.No doubt that some of that writing could lend itself to the typical view of abusive and autocratic military leadership.
But discounting the Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 233 cultural attitudes, societal conventions, and historical realities of their day, even the early writings of ancient philosophers such as Sun Tzu indicate an understanding of leadership that goes far beyond micromanaging autocrats and sending hoards of mindless serfs in mass formations blindly to their collective deaths on the mere whim of the general.On the contrary, many of these early military philosophers reflect a keen understanding of human nature and the elusive psychological factors within groups of human beings that compels them to endure hardship and display inordinate courage in the face of almost-certain death based solely on the inspiration of their leader and devotion to his cause or vision (Sun Tzu, trans. 1971). In 350 B. C. modern concepts such as personal and positional power, expert power, knowledge power, and information power, as opposed to reward power, coercive power, and connection power, were articulated in the writings of the Greek historian and acclaimed military commander Xenophon (as cited in Heinl, 1966), who said, The leader must himself believe that willing obedience always beats forced obedience, and that he can get this only by really knowing what should be done.
Thus he can secure obedience from his men because he can convince them that he knows best, precisely as a good doctor makes his patients obey him. In the declarative statement, “willing obedience always beats forced obedience,” Xenophon, a military leader, identified the basic sources of power as they relate to leaders and followers in organizations. And he did so more than 2,500 years before the advent of modern research techniques and enlightened management theories.Within military circles, this was not an isolated insight. In more modern times, the Earl of Essex wrote in a letter on September 24, 1642, “I shall desire all and every officer to endeavor by love and affable carriage to command his soldiers, since what is done for fear is done unwillingly, and what is unwillingly attempted can never prosper” (Heinl, 1966, p.
170). Clearly, then, not all of military history and culture has advocated or relied on forced and strict obedience of mindless subordinates.And in fact, the most successful military leaders and their organizations throughout history have embodied, to some extent, many of the tenets of modern democratic, participative leadership theory. General Creighton W. Abrams, aside from being a highly skilled U. S.
combat officer in three wars, was most notable as a leader who encouraged his subordinates to openly question his policies and procedures and offer their own alternatives as a means to achieve employee “buy-in” and improved morale. As a tank battalion commander, he 234 POLICE QUARTERLY (Vol. , No. 3, September 2000) encouraged dissent amongst his subordinates during discussions concerning policy and procedures. Taylor and Rosenbach (1996) stated, Abrams made sure that his young officers were not inhibited in these discussions. In fact, stimulated by his challenges, they argued with him constantly.
Usually, he would let them persuade him to do it their way. Maybe that way was not always as good as the way he would have done it, but—having argued so strongly for their own solutions— they were committed to making them work.Abrams, of course, knew this full well. (p. 122) Perhaps, due to the life-and-death nature of the military profession, the modern armed forces of the First World nations have focused their attention very heavily on leadership and its impact on structure and operations.
In doing so, the modern military, particularly the American military, has radically improved the way it organizes its personnel and applies its resources to solve the various problems and accomplish the various missions necessitating its employment.Contrary to the popular notion of autocratic martinets demanding blind and unquestioning obedience from witless and uncreative followers, the modern military has continued to learn and build on the lessons learned from both historical and contemporary research regarding organization and leadership. THE REAL MILITARY MODEL The modern military, far from being the creaking bastion of rigidity portrayed in the stereotype, has developed operational doctrine based on decentralization of decision making and action.The American police could be well served if they were to adopt the lessons of the real military experience, making the appropriate adaptations to reflect their different circumstances and missions. Although both institutions rely on the ability of their lower ranked personnel to make decisions autonomously, only the military instills this decision-making process within a common understanding of doctrine. By many accounts, the Vietnam War, now more than 25 years past, was a low point in American military history, both in the strategic sense of winning wars and in the aspect of internal organizational leadership.
Because Vietnam was the last major long-term conflict involving the conscription of large numbers of American citizens into the armed forces during a crisis, it is only natural that the perception of many people today would be colored by that experience and by the popular depictions in the post-Vietnam media. Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 235 It is the veterans of that 10-year period in our history that have shaped the popular notion of what the military is and does.Hollywood movies such as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket depict the military leadership of that specific era, perhaps correctly, as largely inept, grossly immoral, and entirely self-serving, as epitomized by Robert Duvall’s character in Apocalypse Now. The fact that many of today’s senior police leaders, line officers, and police researchers are Vietnam veterans or nonveterans who grew up during that war may do much to explain the popular notion of a single and highly undesirable military model of leadership and the mistaken belief that law enforcement should distance itself from anything even remotely associated with it.A careful analysis of today’s military reveals a radically different picture of leadership and organization. Much more than civilian corporations and enterprises, military organizations understand the criticality of studying the field of leadership, of developing their leaders, and of understanding the complex and dynamic nature of the arena in which that leadership will be tested—conflict and crisis.
Such an endeavor requires not mindless robots centrally controlled by authoritarian dictators, with no discretion to act and incapable of creative thought, but independent and audacious teams led by innovative, knowledgeable, and dynamic leaders. The Marine Corps’ Doctrinal Publication (MCDP)-1 Warfighting (1997),4 written to all Marines, not simply to senior commanders and generals, states, An even greater part of the conduct of war falls under the realm of art, which is the employment of creative or intuitive skills.Art includes the creative, situational application of scientific knowledge through judgment and experience, and so the art of war subsumes the science of war. The art of war requires the intuitive ability to grasp the essence of a unique military situation and the creative ability to devise a practical solution. This “employment of creative or intuitive skills” applies every bit as much to the Lance Corporal/Fire Team Leader as it does to the Captain/ Company Commander or Commandant of the Marine Corps.
But its value does not flow simply from the authority and willingness of subordinates to depart from established orders or procedures. The value of this ability to devise practical solutions is derived from the fundamental doctrines of the profession, a thorough understanding of unit and organizational missions, and the comprehensive knowledge base and developed experience of the practitioner on which the “art” is based. Egon Bittner’s analysis of the police as “a mechanism for the distribution of non-negotiably coercive force 236 POLICE QUARTERLY (Vol. 3, No. , September 2000) employed in accordance with the dictates of an intuitive grasp of situational exigencies” (Kappeler, 1970/1999) attempts to grapple with the same essence.
So does the problem-oriented policing movement, although we have been somewhat more successful at articulating the underlying science than in achieving its artful application on the street. For decades, the modern military has actively and purposely worked to develop leaders who can think independently, take action without detailed supervision, and create solutions to complex and rapidly changing problems.In fact, despite the overall degradation of leadership during the Vietnam and the post-Vietnam era, even the doctrine of that day touted the knowledge and creative ability of noncommissioned officers and junior officers as our major advantage over our more centrally controlled and absolutely rigid Soviet adversaries, which we were likely to meet en masse on the plains of Europe or, in the case of the Marine Corps, on the frozen tundra and mountains of Norway or the southern flank of NATO.Modern doctrine has evolved much further. Again, from the MCDP-1 Warfighting (1997), First and foremost, in order to generate the tempo of operations we desire and to best cope with the uncertainty, disorder, and fluidity of combat, command and control must be decentralized. That is subordinate commanders must make decisions on their own initiative, based on their understanding of their senior’s intent, rather than passing information up the chain of command and waiting for the decision to be passed down.
Military commanders and leaders down to the lowest levels are mandated to take action to solve problems and accomplish any and all assigned missions without detailed orders and with little or no supervision. In addition, this mandate to take action, to take risk, is backed by a doctrinal admonition against a “zero-defects” mentality that viciously condemns and punishes even the slightest mistake, which is a common practice in most rigid and highly authoritarian organizations (FM 100-14: Risk Management, 1998).But the military does not simply talk about leadership. To achieve this kind of individual skill and level of leadership development within its ranks, the military services have implemented structural and operational methods that directly encourage independent and creative action. They have proactively, rationally, and purposely developed organizational systems that foster decentralization and participative decision making.
Concepts such as mission tactics (telling subordinates what needs to be done, not how to do it) and commander’s intent (a device designed to help subordinates Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 237 understand the larger context of their actions, allowing them to depart from the original plan in the heat of battle in a way that is consistent with the aims of the higher commander) are specific operational methodologies designed to prevent micromanagement and oversupervision of subordinates while supporting initiative at the lowest possible level . Marine Corps’ Doctrinal Publication 6, Command and Control (MCDP-6, 1997) supports the principles articulated in Warfighting (MCDP-1, 1997), officially defining the command and control process as “a dynamic, interactive process of cooperation” that occurs vertically within and laterally outside the chain of command. That the authoritarian, centrally controlled concept of the ilitary still persists in the minds of both advocates and critics, in spite of concrete operational practices and detailed and comprehensive official documentation to the contrary, is puzzling. It may be indicative of widespread animosity toward and ignorance of things military resulting from the Vietnam era. Or it may be something else entirely.
Whatever the cause, this misunderstanding of military organizational and leadership doctrine has significantly affected the structure and leadership of modern policing in America.THE RESULT OF WRONG ASSUMPTIONS The primary result of this mistaken view of military leadership has been the philosophical assumptions made concerning appropriate organizational and operational methods of policing as opposed to the military. Certainly, there is the assumption of a boot-camp style of leadership, as the military model has caused many police leaders and line officers alike to assume the manner or at least the outlook of a drill sergeant, the “Yes, Sir. No, Sir. Three bags full, Sir! ” arrogant expectation of autocratic micro-managers.
This style of leadership (not even a true representation of leadership by boot camp drill instructors) has done within policing exactly what its critics decry: created organizations that are centrally controlled and highly inflexible, characterized by top-down order transmission and bottom-up reporting; less creative and more intellectually rigid individual officers bound to tradition and regulations, unable to deal effectively with both the dynamics of modern policing theories and the communities they serve; and a more combat/enforcement-oriented force, with a resulting increase in isolation from and hostility between police and citizens.It has been justly criticized and should be replaced, as it was by the military decades ago. 238 POLICE QUARTERLY (Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2000) The adoption of this grossly inaccurate model of leadership and organization, mistakenly attributed to the military, has obviously distorted police perceptions and leadership methodologies.Confronted with complex organizational situations and relying only on their personal experience at the lowest levels of the military hierarchy, police leaders with limited organizational training and career development use the military model as a means to obtain immediate and absolute obedience to orders without question.
With limited leadership and operational training to fall back on and routinely confronted with dangerous crisis situations in their communities, many police supervisors and managers depend on an organizational structure that supports top-down decision making and total submission to ensure their authority and status within the hierarchy and retain operational control. Coupled with a faulty assumption about the military, the assertion of paramilitary status by police agencies reinforces the poor leadership practices assumed to be an essential element of that profession.Inaccurate assumptions and mistaken beliefs about how military organizations perform have caused the police profession to ignore and neglect important organizational concepts and structures that could radically improve their ability to enhance public safety. First, the misguided rejection of the military model (or the slavish adherence to the incorrect one) has contributed to the belief that the “crime-fighter” police officer is an independent operative.Fed by media images, most spectacularly the figure of “Dirty Harry” Callahan, this is the belief that the typical street-level police officer or investigator is considered the primary crime fighter, a “lone ranger” on patrol, operating apart and in isolation from his peers and wholly removed from the ever watchful eye of his supervisors.
Working within such a model, neither the officer nor the police department benefits from the very thing that makes organizations effective—the cooperative effort of multiple agents acting in concert that produces a more effective result than the sum of the individual agents acting alone: synergy.This model also unnaturally separates the supervisor and upper management officers from the policing mission from the moment they are promoted. Police supervisors tend to monitor (from varying distances) the activities of individually operating subordinates who are engaged in crime fighting, but they are rarely involved in the direct application of their personnel and resources to the crime-fighting effort. Instead of an organizational outlook, police officers view themselves as individual crime fighters only to the point that they become supervisors, managers, administrators, and executives within the police department.To a greater or lesser extent Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 239 FIGURE 2: Actual Contrasts Between Military and Policing Professions (depending on the agency), all those above the lowest street-level ranks merely oversee and support the individual operational functions of linelevel officers. They do not contribute, in any operational sense, to the organized policing or law enforcement effort—to actual crime fighting.
This individualized concept of organization is anathema to military professionals who view themselves (and are by doctrine considered) “warfighters”, whether they are on the front lines or on the general staff.The terms supervisor and manager, as occupational positions distinct from the war fighter, are not found in American military manuals, because supervision and management are considered merely individual components of effective leadership. All components and levels of the military hierarchy are engaged in the battle or conflict, each one planning, organizing, coordinating, and leading at his or her appropriate level or position but all working together to accomplish the operational war-fighting mission. Military personnel are either commanders or subordinates, fulfilling operational or support roles, in a line or a staff position.Not everyone is a “trigger puller”, but everyone is a war fighter. And everyone up the chain of command actively participates in the war-fighting effort, not simply on supervising or managing the people involved in it.
There are numerous concepts or doctrines within the military that support and encourage this organizational war-fighting mentality that are almost completely missing in policing. The military actively employs concepts such as combined arms, which views successful war fighting as the highly coordinated employment of every organizational function or 240POLICE QUARTERLY (Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2000) specialty in a mutually supporting manner and actively integrates all of the actions of an organization’s resources and personnel to best operational advantage. Command and control, which gathers, collates, analyzes, and develops intelligence from all available information related to the war-fighting effort, orchestrates operational planning and facilitates decision making based on the generated intelligence information and then coordinates and directs the timely and effective employment of those same resources toward a common goal.The concept of the commander himself, a person with ex- tensive tactical, operational, and organizational leadership training, development, and experience in both line and staff positions, is the one person ultimately responsible for creating teamwork and the organizational and operational environment conducive to success.
All of these distinctly military concepts increase the performance of organizations by improving the combined actions of the independent and creative individuals within them. Second, by automatically rejecting and/or fundamentally misunderstanding military theory and doctrine, policing has developed two completely divergent and incompatible modes of operation: the routine or daily mode of individual patrol and investigatory action, and the crisis mode of multiple unit response to serious and large-scale incidents. As previously stated, the common view of operational policing is that of the lone ranger on patrol, randomly operating in near isolation from his or her peers and largely removed from the directing/coordinating influence of his or her supervisor.This is the predominant method of operation in most departments, because crises tend to occur relatively infrequently, particularly in the smaller, suburban, and rural departments that make up the majority of American police agencies. With line-level officers operating independently and supervisors and managers doctrinally removed from the operational arena, untrained and unskilled in the art of employing personnel and resources in a combined and coordinated fashion, crisis situations have traditionally presented police departments with overwhelming challenges.
Correct use of military operational principles such as combined arms, command and control, and commandership could have significantly improved police responses during the Attica prison uprising, the MOVE confrontation in Philadelphia, the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, the Los Angeles Police Department response to the Rodney King riots, or the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle. Realizing this, the police officers themselves are beginning to learn the lessons of these and other less notable incidents by attempting to improve their own Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 41 organizational response protocols. Although the police have attempted to adapt the Incident Command System (ICS) (a concept first developed by the Fire Service) to police use, it is often little more than a belated effort to organize resources during a crisis. The rudimentary police application of this process ignores the very methods of operation and leadership developed and refined over centuries by military organizations essentially for the same reasons. ICS is one method of organization that has been evolving over the past 20 years, with perhaps 10 years of significant police participation.But it suffers from structural inconsistencies and ignores fundamental organizational and operational doctrines, which tends to diminish its effectiveness and which, as already experienced by the military, could take many decades or longer to significantly improve and refine.
7 But aside from its inherent imperfections, ICS’s major flaw is that it is only used during a crisis. Because of the relative rarity of its employment, most police supervisors and managers do not generally understand how to function within it or use it properly.The traditional police dual-mode methodology imposes a dangerous dichotomy between everyday operations and crisis operations. The policing solution to this dilemma (particularly in light of the police organizational methodology of removing supervisors and managers from the routine day-to-day crime fighting) has not been for sergeants and lieutenants and more senior police leaders to learn and understand ICS, the accepted system of organization and operation during larger emergencies.The predominant response has been to train one or a few specialists in the department, many times significantly junior people, to implement the ICS process at a critical incident. Senior police officials, those commanders who are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of these life-and-death situations and who receive the pay and recognition commensurate with their status, remain largely ignorant of the organizational and operational doctrine being used during a crisis.
They simply and dangerously rely on operational specialists to advise them how to plan, operate, and employ their resources.The collective signal that this method of dealing with critical incidents sends throughout the profession is that if it is not important enough for our senior commanders and executives to study and understand, then it is not important. In contrast, military organizations have one structure and one method of operation. Whether in garrison or in the field, during High Intensity Conflict or Operations Other Than War, units are organized and operations are carried out in the same manner.Commanders are always commanders; they are always involved in operations, and they always understand the 242 POLICE QUARTERLY (Vol. 3, No.
3, September 2000) operational principles governing them and their units. Individuals are intimately familiar with operational procedures because they operate, conceptually speaking, the same way day in and day out, whether it is routine training, humanitarian relief, peace keeping, or all-out war. Police organizations could dramatically improve both their routine and crisis operations under the same type of consistent methodology. The rejection of things military by the policing profession has also drastically hindered our ability to create improvements in our current doctrine and operational methods. ICS has already been mentioned.
But an even more recent “innovation” in police operations has been the concept of The COMPSTAT Process (Safir, n. d. )—the use of crime data and statistics to direct police response to crime trends and patterns and hold jurisdictional commanders responsible for efforts to reduce and eliminate them. COMPSTAT is a highly simplified form of military operational planning that uses tactical and strategic intelligence data to drive operations.It is comparatively elementary in that it fails to seek and understand the theories and concepts behind the method—the differences between tactical and strategic information/data; principles such as unity of command and combined arms operations; and the interaction and relationships between commanders, their staffs, and their operational units.
It fails to address the organizational structures and operational practices (such as those mentioned above and others) that contribute to successful resolution of the identified problems.COMPSTAT is an attempt to produce genuine results by treating organizational symptoms (lack of accountability, intradepartmental coordination, bottom-up information flow) in isolation from the wider systemic factors and issues in the department that actually drive operations. The military, philosophically accomplishing the same types of missions with the same types of resources, has developed and has been developing the theories and methods to do its job for centuries. The doctrines are sound, and the methodologies are effective, albeit ever changing and improving.The philosophical concepts are directly applicable to law enforcement, with only minor and insignificant modification. Many of the operational and structural techniques are largely appropriate to our profession.
Yet, it is the leadership, the kind of leadership that creates the esprit and morale and professionalism found in today’s armed forces, that today’s police forces should be most emulating. Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 243 CONCLUSION The modern military has centuries of history, traditions, and lessons on which they base current doctrines and operational methodologies.Today’s military leaders continually glean the best examples and messages from ancient historians and warfare theorists, incorporating what has been proven over the course of time to be successful into contemporary situations and practices, modifying and building on changeable ideas, and rejecting those that are or are becoming antiquated and outdated. The U. S. armed forces have an active and integrated “Lessons Learned” program that incorporates existing doctrine with detailed and open after-action critique designed to speed improvement in operational and structural methodologies.
The modern military profession has solid operational and leadership doctrine on which its entire existence and methodologies are based—doctrine that is constantly being improved upon, doctrine that has directly contributed to its tactical and strategic victories over the past 20 years. There is no doubt that the combination of the military with police in the United States would and does meet with severe opposition among the citizenry, and rightly so.This article in no way advocates the militarization of policing in America in the sense of heavy-handed storm troopers and “jack-booted thugs” usurping fundamental constitutional freedoms through combat oriented actions. The unbridled use of total war tactics and highly destructive weaponry must be avoided within our borders, against our citizens. Military forces and police forces should always be completely separate and different organizations in a free society. In fact, the military customs, courtesies, traditions, and accouterments, the “Yes, sir.
No, sir.Three bags full, sir! ” historic trappings of warrior poets that authoritative police managers treasure far more than substantive military practices, hold no relevance to policing and should be abandoned. But there is also no doubt that conceptually, our missions and objectives are strikingly similar. Furthermore, our adversaries are becoming increasingly sophisticated and tactically adept, requiring a much more organized and capable operational response on the part of civilian police agencies if we intend to be successful without direct military support or intervention.Without dramatic improvement in the tactical and strategic organization of American law enforcement agencies, a reliance on armed military units to supplement police could be an inevitable result.
As such, we should study and adopt the particular organizational and operational doctrines and methodologies that the military has long since developed that are applicable to 244 POLICE QUARTERLY (Vol. 3, No. 3, September 2000) our profession.A correct view of the military and the incorporation of specific military theories and practices into policing will improve the way we do business, give us a distinct strategic and tactical advantage over any criminal adversary within our borders, and make our operations safer and less prone to violent resolution. It can only benefit America’s police departments, and ultimately the citizens we serve, if we look at the military model as it truly is: a highly professional and organizationally mature profession and not as the aberration that many think it is—the rigid dinosaurs of wars long lost.NOTES 1.
E-mail discussion with Dr. Michael Buerger, associate professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts; and Alberto Melis, now chief in Waco, Texas. In referring to the “police agent” concept, Buerger referenced The Task Force Report on the Police of The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967). Departments mentioned as experimenting with various other nonmilitary modes and methods include Lauderhill, Florida; Aspen, Colorado; and San Jose, California. . See FMFRP 12-41 (1989).
Although not difficult to see the obvious similarities between a SWAT team conducting a hostage rescue at a failed bank robbery and the British Special Air Service conducting a hostage rescue at the Iranian Embassy in London, it is perhaps a bit more abstract to view routine police operations, particularly community policing efforts, in light of military tactics and operational leadership. But the analogy remains strikingly viable. War fighting and crime fighting philosophies are not mutually exclusive. . See Cincinnatus (1981). 4.
Marine Corps’ Doctrinal Publication (MCDP)-1 Warfighting (1997) is the Marine Corps’ foundational document concerning fundamental doctrine, that is, the philosophical framework for the way the Marine Corps conducts its business. It is required reading for all Marines and is the nexus of all other doctrinal publications. Most current Marine Corps doctrinal publications may be found on the Internet at http://www. doctrine. quantico. usmc.
mil/. 5.Mission tactics is the process of assigning subordinates specific missions and leaving the manner of accomplishing those missions completely in their hands. The use of mission tactics by an organization relies on the exercise of initiative and creative thinking by subordinates and allows them the freedom to take whatever steps are necessary to solve problems and accomplish their mission based on their own available resources and the unique and rapidly changing situations that they face.To allow widely divergent subordinates this decentralized freedom of decision and action and still attain a common organizational goal in the most effective manner possible, there must be a means of focusing and coordinating the various independent subordinate efforts.
Commander’s intent allows subordinates to exercise their own initiative based on the immediate and uniquely changing circumstances confronting them in a way that is consistent with the higher commander’s aims in accomplishing the overall mission.There are two components to any mission: the task to be accomplished and the reason behind it. Every mission has an intended purpose or the reason for accomplishing Cowper / THE MYTH OF THE MILITARY MODEL 245 the task. With an understanding of the intent of a particular mission, responsible and free-thinking subordinates are allowed to exercise informed initiative in harmony with the commanders original desires. Situations routinely change, making accomplishment of specific tasks obsolete and perhaps even counterproductive, whereas the original intention can continue to guide actions.
. From MCDP-6, Command and Control (1997): “The aim is not to increase our capacity to perform command and control. It is not more command and control that we are after. Instead, we seek to decrease the amount of command and control that we need. We do this by replacing coercive command and control methods with spontaneous, self-disciplined cooperation based on low-level initiative, a commonly understood commander’s intent, mutual trust, and implicit understanding and communications. ” 7.
The military, like policing, is organized along line and staff functions.As such, it has developed an organizational doctrine and a structure to support it that, like Incident Command System (ICS), attempts to aid the planning and conduct of operations along with the commander’s decision-making process. ICS has no fundamental organizational doctrine on which it is based and is a process and structure that does not correspond with normal police operations. Its structure tends to blur the distinctions between command and staff functions. The role and purpose of the commander, chain and unity of ommand, and the functional relationships between the staff, the operational units, and their mutual commander are ambiguous and confusing, particularly when implemented rarely, during crises. 8.
The military views mobilized operations—for example, war, humanitarian relief, peacekeeping, nation building, and so forth—as an extended form of everyday or peacetime operations. Commanders and their units, composed of a functional staff along with the subordinate operational units that they support, are organized and operate, at least conceptually, in the same manner all the time.The tempo and urgency of operations will change with the level of crisis, but the structure and managerial/command relationships of the organization remain constant. Civilian ICS, as a separate and distinct form of organization only employed during a crisis, is inherently at odds with the basic method of daily police operations and its standard organizational structures and command relationships. REFERENCES Cincinnatus. (1981).
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50). Washington, DC: CATO Institute. Thomas J. Cowper is a captain with the New York State Police and a graduate student at Marist College. He is a former Marine officer and has served in a variety of law enforcement assignments during his 17-year police career.
He was a member of the Urban Institute’s site visit teams as part of the National Evaluation of the COPS program and is pursuing a research agenda on the impact of technology on government and policing.