For a while now I’ve considered the plausibility or, perhaps, inevitability of insurgent tactics witnessed in Iraq and Afghanistan making their way west and finding a new home in the violent counter culture that is the American gangland. Thankfully we have yet to see the drive by shooting evolve into a Los Angeles road side bombing. Thankfully the ethos of the modern “gangbanger” has, at it’s center, a hefty amount of narcissism and so the suicide bomber remains a very remote possibility.
In considering the possibility of native criminals entertaining the tactics of insurgents abroad, I’d also given thought to the “what if” concept of American law enforcement agencies practicing some form of counter insurgency strategy. It turns out the extreme environment of road side bombs and suicide bombers isn’t necessary. Rampant gang related crime has driven one Californian police force to adopt the methods and assistance from some Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran counter-insurgents.
<blockquote>In the space of 11 days this year, seven people were murdered in Salinas. Each killing, like the record 25 homicides the previous year, spilled from the gang warfare that this summer pushed the homicide rate in the city of 140,000 to three times that of Los Angeles. Residents retreated indoors at night, and Mayor Dennis Donohue affirmed his decision to seek help from an unlikely source: the U.S. military.
Since February, combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been advising Salinas police on counterinsurgency strategy, bringing lessons from the battlefield to the meanest streets in an American city.</blockquote>
I’m of two mindsets regarding this evolution of law enforcement. In one respect, I see it as a remarkably adaptive effort in domestic law enforcement’s effort to combat rampant gang related crime. On the other hand, I consider this another step toward the militarization of American law enforcement. This shift toward a more militant stance is and has been incremental in varying degrees; from the glaring example of no knock warrants to the more inconspicuous, psychological effects of police attire (specifically boots; sounds ridiculous but think about it for a moment.)
I don’t envision a near future America being dominated by a militocracy. We’re too socially dynamic and generally rebellious to allow that. But I do fear (and yes it’s an age old fear) a gradual allowance of Constitutional privilege to law enforcement for a return of the perception of safety.