This was published yesterday on Breach Bang Clear. Not surprisingly, many readers launched into vitriolic diatribes against the idea, without bothering to read the article. On the other hand, quite a few infantrymen agreed with me. I’ll take that as a win. :)

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Over the last several years we’ve had much debate on the topic of women in the infantry. Support for the idea comes from many military women, some of whom, like the Lionesses of the Marine Corps and the Special Forces “enablers”, were embedded with infantry units. Some women in non-combat units who were occasionally on combat missions have also spoken out in favor of allowing women into the infantry.

Unfortunately, support also comes from ignorant morons who never served, would never serve, don’t know anyone who serves, and view military gender integration as a social justice cause. They make stupid statements like “The military has finally recognized that there are no lines or drawn battlefields anymore where they could put the ‘girls’ in the rear. If you carry a weapon, you are in the thick of it.”

Yes, some moron on the Huffington Post actually said that.

A few female combat veterans have spoken out against the idea, including Marine Captain Katie Petronio. She described the physical damage she suffered while working with infantry units, and strongly criticized the federal government’s Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service, which was pushing women into combat arms. “…None of the committee members are on active duty or have any recent combat or relevant operational experience relating to the issue they are attempting to change.”

We’ve also heard from long-time infantrymen, many of whom oppose giving women even the opportunity to test for combat arms. They and others see the whole idea as “nothing but trouble”. Many veterans, particularly (though by no means exclusively) Cold War-era vets, seem to be dead set against any type of military gender integration, on any level.

I’ve spoken on the subject as well. My take was, allow women into the infantry, but only if they pass a screening test beforehand. And no matter what, don’t lower the standards. But my opinion only means so much. Although I’m a combat veteran, I was never infantry.

So everyone seems to be talking about women in infantry. Everyone except women who were infantry, and who actually were in combat.

Yes, they do exist.

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I was recently introduced online to a woman who served seven years as a Danish Army infantry soldier and deployed to Kosovo and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan she was a rifleman (her word), Carl Gustav recoilless rifle gunner and team leader. That role is roughly equivalent to a fire team leader, but with three soldiers instead of four; her role as fire team leader also made her assistant squad leader. She was in multiple firefights, had casualties in her platoon, and carried her load alongside everyone else. She’s also an American citizen, born here but raised in Denmark. She has plenty of actual infantry combat experience, and understands American culture. Her opinions on this subject deserve to be heard.

At this point, I’m sure some readers are walking away in disgust at the very idea that a woman could be infantry. See you guys later, hope you open your mind someday. On the other side of the debate, “social justice warriors” who know nothing at all about the military won’t read past the last paragraph before proclaiming, “See? Women are the same as men! Open the infantry to all women, you cismale gendernormative fascists!” Well, screw you simpleminded “I put lofty ideals over reality” idiots.

And some readers are skeptical about women in the infantry, but willing to listen to opposing views. Those are the people I’m trying to reach.

I’d like to introduce you open-minded readers to our Danish female infantry combat vet. She’s chosen to remain anonymous, so I’ll call her “Mary”. Mary has moved on from combat arms, and isn’t trying to become the spokesperson for women in the infantry. She’s just a proud infantry combat vet who agreed to talk about her experience.

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I’ve spent hours speaking to Mary online and on Skype. Like most infantry soldiers, she’s crude, crass and fun to talk with. Her language probably draws horrified stares when she’s around polite company (she really likes making penis jokes). She’s intelligent and has a quick wit. And no, she’s not a “big-boned” butch lesbian with a crew cut and mustache. She’s straight, married to a man she met in the army, and is pretty much the beautiful blond goddess Americans imagine all Scandinavian women to be.

Mary’s first deployment was to Kosovo, as a peacekeeper in the Mitrovica region. Kosovo experiences periodic unrest, but Mary didn’t see any combat there. Afghanistan, of course, was different.

Mary’s company went to Helmand Province in 2009 for a six-month deployment. She was in a sister company to the Danish troops in the documentary Armadillo, which won an award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Helmand Province back then, as now, was no joke. When she returned to Helmand in 2011, it wasn’t any safer.

Mary sweeping for IEDs in Helmand Province

Mary sweeping for IEDs in Helmand Province

Mary wasn’t a hero, and doesn’t claim to have done anything more than her job. But that job was to be a real infantry soldier. Even though she’s a woman (a female woman!), she somehow pulled it off.

I’m going to identify the most common questions and objections raised when we discuss females in combat arms, then let Mary give her opinion on each one. Where applicable, my own observations and opinions will be included and will be clearly identified as such.

“Women aren’t physically capable of serving in the infantry.”

Denmark has a conscript army. Draftees have to serve at least four months, just long enough for basic training. Females aren’t subject to conscription but are welcome to volunteer. Mary joined the army at twenty-two and was in an infantry basic training platoon with thirty males and ten females. She made it through with no issues, along with five other females. Two females dropped due to medical problems and two quit (volunteers are allowed to quit, draftees aren’t).

“After those four months, if you pass with a high enough score, you can opt for ‘real’ military training,” Mary said. “After the conscript period, out of 400 conscripts, about 100 of us stayed on for what they call Reaction Force Training, which is a short-term contract where you train for eight months and then deploy to Kosovo or Afghanistan.”

Of the six females in her platoon who graduated basic, Mary and two others chose to stay infantry. But she was quick to point out that Denmark’s standards for infantry were nothing to brag about when she joined.

“Back then, our PT standards were a shambles. You had to pass a two-mile run in fifteen minutes, and do some pushups and situps. There was no special test for infantry, pretty much anyone could do it. Since Denmark really started contributing to the War on Terror, we’ve raised the standards quite a bit for combat arms. And the standards are the same for males and females.”

Mary participating in a biathlon

Mary participating in a biathlon

Mary spent the Kosovo deployment working out, which prepared her for Afghanistan. “I wasn’t in great shape before I joined the army. Since then I’ve gotten much better, although I’m still better at strength tests than running.” In Afghanistan her combat load, depending on whether she was acting as rifleman, team leader or Carl Gustav gunner, averaged about eighty pounds. According to Mary, she had no issue humping her ruck, never fell out of a march, and never had to pass off her gear to anyone else. Not even when she was carrying the twenty-one pound Gustav.

Mary firing her Carl Gustav outside her firebase

Mary firing her Carl Gustav outside a firebase

Most missions in Afghanistan last no longer than a day. Mary never had to hump a 100+ pound ruck for days or weeks at a time. She was quick to point out that she was mechanized infantry, and even on nine-day missions always had an M113 close by. Those who oppose women in the infantry will likely claim that humping eighty pounds on an eight-hour patrol is “easy” compared to the multi-day slogs with over 100 pounds grunts have endured in training and past wars.

True enough. But that’s not the standard for passing infantry school. If that’s the standard we want to maintain, then hold male infantrymen to it as well. I imagine our infantry units would lose quite a few male troops if we did.

“Males and females are physiologically different, and should be separated in the military just like they are in sports.”

Part of the argument against females in the infantry focuses on physiological differences between males and females. The best female athlete can’t compete with the best male athlete, the average woman isn’t as strong as the average male. Genders are separated in professional sports and the Olympics. That’s all true. Mary has, I think, a realistic answer to that.

“People always point to the separate male and female leagues in sports, which is a valid point — it is biology — but infantry isn’t the major leagues, SOF is. Obviously we’d love to have all our infantrymen consist of 6’5″ super-athletes, but it’s not realistic. If you’re letting in small guys who barely pass the standards, what’s the compelling argument for keeping women out?

“And the ‘I’m 3000 pounds with all my gear on, how is Sally Cheerleader going to drag my ass out of the line of fire’ argument? Jesus. EVERY platoon has at least one or two guys no one else can carry. We had one huge motherfucker that needed three to just pull him out of an APC. So is there gonna be an upper size limit, too? Some guys were so tall, they got back problems from sitting in a cramped APC. Everyone’s got their cross to carry. Everyone comes with benefits and drawbacks.”

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Read the rest at http://www.breachbangclear.com/females-in-the-infantry-er-yes-actually/

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).


This was published a few days ago on TaskandPurpose.com. It’s gotten about 150 comments on Facebook. And of those 150, I think only two of them actually read the article.

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The headline jumped at me like a Bouncing Betty: “Department of Defense Planning to Let Illegal Immigrants Enlist.” The words evoke images of prison-tattooed gang members wading across the Rio Grande, sprinting from exhausted Border Patrol agents to the nearest recruiting office, exclaiming “Sign me up, pendejo!” and giving an MS-13 salute as they board the bus for Benning. The story was, on its face, too unrealistic to believe. There had to be more to it than what the headline suggested.

I’m extremely interested in the topic of immigrants in the military, for several reasons. My family is originally from Mexico, although my ancestors came to America about a hundred years ago. My great-grandfather was either drafted into or joined the U.S. Army not long after he arrived (I have no idea what his immigration status was). He had completed training and was at the station waiting to board a train to a troop ship heading to the battlefields of the Great War, when a loudspeaker announced the Armistice. All of his sons save one served in the military during World War II or Korea. His oldest son, my great uncle Leo, was killed in the Bataan Death March. His youngest son, my great uncle Richard, was a Marine in Korea. Generations later, his descendants — me and my niece — are still serving.

Read the rest at http://taskandpurpose.com/endorsement-militarys-plan-accept-illegal-immigrants/

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).


Like many Americans, I have strong thoughts about ISIS and Islamic terrorism. Unlike most Americans, I have extensive experience living and working with Muslims. As a United Nations police officer in Kosovo I lived on the civilian economy, worked with local Albanian Muslim police and spent most of my off-duty time socializing with locals instead of Americans or other internationals. As a soldier in Afghanistan I went on many missions with Afghan National Army soldiers, and put my life in their hands many times. I often visited their compound and was at times the only American around Afghan soldiers. I never felt threatened, and I’d feel no fear going on missions with those particular Afghan soldiers again.

I know for a fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, nor do they all support terror. I also know that Islamic terrorism is a huge threat. But as we prepare to go to war (or something like it) with ISIS, I see our nation’s leaders bending over backward to not admit what’s blindingly obvious to just about everyone in the entire world.

“The Islamic State is not Islamic.”

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Yes it is.

A certain world leader who shall remain nameless recently claimed ISIS isn’t Islamic. John Kerry recently said, “ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam but the fact is that its hateful ideology has nothing do with Islam.” I guess that explains why ISIS declared its territory is the new Islamic Caliphate. Since, you know, an Islamic empire founded by devout Muslims with the sole purpose of spreading Islam has nothing to do with Islam. And I guess thousands of Muslims from all over the world are joining ISIS because it’s not Islamic.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/isis-declares-new-islamist-caliphate-1404065263

This reminds me of another very stupid argument. In recent years I’ve heard supposedly intelligent people declare that Muslim suicide bombers blow themselves up because they’re poor, or feel powerless, or their honor has been impugned. But they don’t detonate their suicide bombs for Islam.

The suicide bombers themselves offer a counterpoint. They often make martyrdom videos before blowing themselves up. In those videos, they bluntly state they’re doing it for Islam. Watch this American suicide bomber’s video below, then try to tell yourself, “That had nothing to do with Islam.”

http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/4375.htm

Suicide bombers say they’re doing it for Islam. ISIS fighters say they’re murdering people for Islam. Gosh darn it, this certainly seems to be evidence that those suicide bombers and ISIS are Islamic. I’d categorize the “This terrorism has nothing to do with Islam” crowd as having more college degrees than brain cells. It’s pretty ridiculous for non-Muslim Americans to hear thousands of people proudly proclaim “I’m Muslim and I’m blowing myself up for Islam!”, then turn around and say, “They don’t really mean it.”

I know, I know. Those terrorists aren’t “real” Muslims, because murder is against the rules and real Muslims wouldn’t do such a thing. And Jesus preached peace and forgiveness, so Crusaders who committed atrocities weren’t real Christians. Killing is a sin, so American troops who kill in war aren’t really Christians either. Priests take a vow of celibacy, so the Catholic priests who sexually abused children weren’t really Catholic. Catholic Croatians who told Serbian Orthodox prisoners “convert or be killed,” then killed them anyway, weren’t really Catholic. The Serbian paramilitaries who committed the Srebrenica Massacre weren’t “real” Orthodox Christians, because real Orthodox Christians would never murder anyone.

Let’s face it: breaking a religious rule doesn’t mean you aren’t part of that religion. The Westboro Baptist Church fanatics are flaming douches, but they are in fact Christians. ISIS members are evil, murderous pieces of warthog crap who somehow assumed human form, but they are in fact Muslim.

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If we acknowledge their religious beliefs, that doesn’t mean we have to believe all Muslims are like ISIS. The Srebrenica murderers and child-molesting priests were Christian, but I don’t think my Christian parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins, coworkers and fellow soldiers are murderers or child molesters. Admitting the obvious – that ISIS is Islamic – doesn’t require us to paint all Muslims with the same brush.

I’ve had many Muslim friends. I’ve trusted some of them with my life. One of my Italian coworkers in Kosovo said, “My Albanian police officers would die before letting me get hurt.” The officers I worked with were the same way; yes they were Muslim, no they weren’t terrorists, and they protected me even though I was a non-Muslim American. After 9/11 quite a few Albanian Muslims asked me how they could join the U.S. military and fight Al Qaeda, because they were so angry we’d been attacked.

We’ve been in Kosovo since 1999, and haven’t lost a single American soldier or police officer to an attack by an Albanian Muslim. Albanian Muslims were proud of their religion, yet even they called Al Qaeda what they were: Islamic terrorists. I’m sure they’d use the same term to describe ISIS. (And as moderate and Western as Albanian Muslims are, even they have problems with Islamic extremism; dozens of Albanian ISIS fighters were recently arrested in Kosovo, and 16 have been killed in Syria and Iraq.)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-schwartz/isis-and-the-kosovar-alba_b_5670061.html

As ISIS carries out more atrocities and gains more power, our leadership still argues over how to define them. Yet ISIS has no problem defining itself. ISIS screams “We’re Muslims!”, our leadership responds with “No you’re not.” That response might be an unnecessary trick calculated to convince Muslim allies we’re not against their religion. Or, and this is scary, our leaders could actually believe it. They might be sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “I don’t care what you say, I know what you believe better than you do.” They may be refusing to see the truth staring them right in the face: some Muslims hate us, some Muslims want to kill us all, some Muslims declared war on us and don’t care that we haven’t declared war back.

The truth is, ISIS is in fact composed of devoutly Muslim terrorists, carrying out brutal attacks in the name of their religion. And the truth is, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Muslims support ISIS. Why can’t we just say that?

Refusing to acknowledge obvious truth isn’t just stupid. It’s stupid and weak. Many of us war on terror vets suspect this “war” with ISIS, if it really happens, will be fought with one hand tied behind our collective backs. But if our leadership continually refuses to even admit who our enemies are, then we’ll fight with one eye closed as well.

A brief note on the executions of James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines

After James Foley’s execution video was released, several people criticized Foley’s apparent lack of resistance to his impending murder. A few comments I read, mostly from combat veterans, said Foley should have done something rather than just give up. He should have run, kicked, bitten, or at least called his executioner a mother****er before dying. Understandably, those of us trained to fight to the last expect anyone facing certain death to resist in some way. In the video, Foley, to me, looked like he knew what was coming. So why didn’t he resist?

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The truth is, resisting could have made things worse. In the novel Treblinka by Jean Francois Steiner, a Nazi camp guard stands on a platform in a yard and calls prisoners’ names. If a prisoner heard his name, he had to sprint to the platform, stripping off his clothes as he ran. The camp guard’s goal was to have the prisoners assembled and naked within seconds of being called. That way they could be led to the gas chamber in an orderly manner, and nobody would have to take time stripping the bodies afterward.

Why would the prisoners cooperate, if they knew they were going to die anyway? Because, in Steiner’s fictional account, if they cooperated they would die a relatively quick and painless death in the gas chamber. If they didn’t cooperate, they’d be brutally murdered after hours of torture.

Foley may have faced a similar dilemma: cooperate and die a painful but relatively quick death by decapitation, or resist and endure a long, gruesome and horribly painful death. Death was the foregone and inescapable conclusion; I can understand if he chose the less horrible death, and don’t blame him for it.

And there’s another possibility. Foley may have been told, “If you resist, we won’t just kill you. We’ll kill the other prisoners too.” It’s a tactic used by many criminals: “If you fight back I’ll kill your wife. I’ll kill your children.” Foley could have accepted his horrible fate, in the hope that others might live. This is pure conjecture on my part, and we’ll likely never know the exact circumstances surrounding any of the executions. But neither Foley, Sotloff nor Haines were known to be cowards. There was probably a good reason they didn’t resist.

If they cooperated with their murderers in order to give their friends a tiny bit of hope for survival, then we didn’t see James Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines die as cowards. What we actually saw were the last, brave acts of very brave men.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com.


Just wanted to let any interested parties know that my second novel, Line in the Valley, is now available in print on Amazon. If you don’t like eBooks and have been counting the seconds until you could hold a real copy of Line in the Valley in your hands, your prayers have been answered! If you do order one, please let me know what you think. Thanks,

Chris Hernandez


I recently wrote an essay about the Michael Brown shooting (http://chrishernandezauthor.com/2014/08/24/a-dose-of-reality-for-ferguson-missouri/comment-page-4/). In the essay I debunked some of the most commonly used arguments to “prove” the shooting was unjustified (i.e., “Shooting an unarmed person is always wrong”). Not surprisingly, many readers took my essay to mean I’m part of the “blue wall”, and that I’ll back up a cop no matter what he does. That’s not the case.

If a cop is guilty, he’s guilty. During my career I’ve known three officers who were charged with committing rape while on duty. Two of them went to prison, because they deserved it. I didn’t hear anyone defend them. Every cop I know hates a rapist, especially one wearing a badge. I’ve known other officers who went down in flames for other crimes, because they should have.

So I’m not always on a cop’s side. Law enforcement isn’t a gang. Loyalty doesn’t override principle.

Now that I’ve shown where I stand, I’ll point out that my essay wasn’t about law enforcement’s many problems, or racial bias in society, or how to fix everything that’s wrong with everything. The essay was intentionally very limited in scope; all I did was address misconceptions many people have about violence and lethal force encounters. I avoided the other issues because I’m no sociology professor. I’m just a cop, soldier and community college non-graduate.

However, a few readers asked me to comment on the larger issues, because they thought my perspective was important. So I’m going to address three ways I think we cops can get the public back on our side.

And let’s face it, we police are losing more and more public support with every high-profile incident like we just had in Missouri. Parts of the public have never trusted police and never will, but we’re also losing support from traditional allies like the military. When a retired Marine officer says we’re the standing army the founding fathers warned everyone about, we have a serious problem. And it’s a problem we created.

It should go without saying that every opinion I write is mine and mine alone. I don’t speak for my department, and won’t even publicly acknowledge which department I work for. I don’t represent the military either. I’m just speaking my opinion, based on two decades as a cop.

Method 1: Lose the military gear

Even though I’m a minority and police allegedly want to murder me because of my skin tone, for some odd reason I’ve never been afraid of a police officer in America. And in another strange twist, neither I nor any of my dark-skinned friends or family members have ever been shot by a cop. I grew up lower middle class, obviously Hispanic, but never felt oppressed.

But I was scared of cops once. In another country. During a war.

In 2001, while I was working as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo, I had to stay overnight in neighboring Macedonia to catch a flight early the next morning. Macedonia was at that time embroiled in a civil war between the Slavic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. The Macedonian military and police were run by Slavs, and they believed Americans were backing their Albanian enemies. Despite the war, borders were open and the capital’s airport was still running. One of my Albanian translators in Kosovo lived in Macedonia and invited me to stay with his family before the flight.

I had a very nice dinner with his family. Then the translator, his brother and I walked to the town square. Before we left the house they warned me: “If we get stopped by the police, don’t talk. Most of the police are drunk, and they hate Americans. You look Albanian, so if you don’t talk they won’t know.”

The town square was nearly empty because of recent fighting. We only spent a short time there before heading back. And as we walked back through a darkened neighborhood, we turned a corner and ran right into the police.

There were maybe four or five of them. The “police officers”, if you could call them that, looked exactly like soldiers. They were dressed in camouflage fatigues and black combat boots, wore chest rigs and carried AK-47s. They were closer to a fire team than a police patrol.

When they saw us they almost stopped, and glared hard at us. My heart rate quickened. One officer in particular, a small dark guy, focused on me. Crap, I thought, and looked away. I was unarmed, had no idea where exactly I was and had no realistic expectation of either fighting or escaping. If one of those guys decided it would be fun to throw an American in jail, into jail I’d go. And jails in semi-third world, former communist countries aren’t known for being pleasant.

My Albanian hosts gave the officers a friendly greeting in Serbo-Croatian. The officers mumbled back a reply. We turned toward the house, which actually put us in front of the police. I didn’t look back, but I expected to hear “Stop!” in Serbian any second. My friends whispered, “Just act like everything’s normal. I don’t think they figured out you’re American.” Eventually, several minutes later, one of them looked behind us. The coast was clear.

I relaxed, but it had been an odd feeling. I had never been scared of a cop before. I guess when police are geared up like soldiers in a war, and look like they hate you, they can be intimidating.

Anyone else ever seen a cop wearing so much military gear you literally couldn’t tell whether he was a cop or soldier?

Police officer at a demonstration in Anaheim, California

Police officer at a demonstration in Anaheim, California

I’ve been a Marine and Soldier longer than I’ve been a cop, and I served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I understand that military gear can be useful to cops. If some wacko with an AK is dumping rounds out his bedroom window, I want an MRAP there. If ISIS is attacking a school, I want SWAT teams to be fully geared out like I was overseas. Other than those extreme situations, why do we need to look and act military?

This is a fine line. We soldiers have learned a lot of hard lessons in the past 13 years of war, and anything we learn that can help make police safer, which then makes the public safer, is a good thing. But there has to be a balance. Yes, officers should carry tourniquets and pressure bandages, because those items save lives. No, officers don’t need to wear desert boots or camouflage uniforms on the street. And good God, someone please explain to me why a cop on duty in America would ever need to wear a shamagh (Arab head scarf).

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Do desert boots, camo and shamaghs make us safer or help us do our jobs? No, but they do accomplish two other things: making us look like wannabe soldiers, and gradually eroding public respect for police. The cool gear some of us wear isn’t worth the bad feelings it generates.

People get why we cops do what we do. Most of them respect what we do. But they don’t respect us if we look like we’re trying to be someone else. A cop in all camo with desert boots, a shamagh, chest rig and carbine looks like he’s trying to be a soldier instead of a cop.

Americans don’t want soldiers patrolling the streets looking for combat. They want officers there to help people who need help and keep the community safe. They understand we need to fight sometimes, they understand we need to shoot sometimes. But they don’t want us all geared out unless the crap hits the fan. And that’s not unreasonable.

Yes, the EOTech is mounted backwards on the officer's carbine. That's not exactly confidence-inspiring.

Yes, the EOTech is mounted backwards on the officer’s carbine. Not exactly confidence-inspiring.

We’re not at war here in America. We don’t need to look (or act) like those “cops” I encountered in Macedonia. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any military-type gear; on patrol I carried a carbine, plate carrier and helmet in my trunk for special occasions, and I broke it out several times. We should put that gear on when circumstances demand it. But we shouldn’t break it out simply because circumstances “permit” it.

Method 2: Cameras. Lotsa cameras.

Many cops don’t like having cameras in their car or on their body. I understand why. Even in cases where we do everything right, police work can still be ugly. There is no nice, gentle, eye-pleasing way to take down a violent suspect. And the language of the street ain’t too pretty either. Cops are human, and there are cases (lots of cases) where we use bad language during a high-stress incident. Some police actions just look bad on video, no matter how right we might be. And it’s a bit unreasonable for someone to watch a video of a violent struggle between a cop and criminal and say, “Just because that PCP addict attacked an officer with a tire iron, there’s no reason for the officer to curse. The officer should have called him ‘sir’.”

Video doesn’t always tell the whole story, either. An officer in the middle of a critical incident may miss something that’s readily apparent on video. There are good reasons for this: an officer may have been stunned by a blow, or had a brief visual obstruction, or may be suffering from physiological responses to stress such as tunnel vision. People watching video of an event might say, “Why didn’t the officer see that? It’s totally obvious!” And maybe it is obvious – to the camera. To the guy fighting for his life, it may not have been.

I hate comparing any real-life activity to sports, but consider how often players, refs and fans see something in an instant replay that they missed during the actual play. If someone never played sports and only watched instant replays, “what should have been done” might seem real obvious. It’s not so obvious to the guy playing the game. Video doesn’t capture everything, and even when it does it may not show what the officer saw.

Here’s an interesting example. A dash cam captured part of a fight between an officer and suspect, but didn’t capture the suspect hitting the officer. If the officer hadn’t been wearing a body camera, he would have been stuck trying to convince the public that he was assaulted.

Without question, video has its limitations. But even if it doesn’t tell the whole story, it still provides the public with critical information.

Consider this shooting, which superficially compares to the Ferguson shooting. An unarmed black male was killed by a white police officer. The officer claimed he was attacked and had no choice but to shoot. Without video, and absent any significant injuries, that officer would be hard-pressed to explain why a grown man with a Taser and maybe baton and pepper spray couldn’t defend himself against one unarmed guy.

The video shows just how big and aggressive that suspect was. It clearly shows the officer did not provoke the fight. It shows his Taser fail. It shows the first punch that floored him. In short, it removes the “he said/she said” atmosphere swirling around the Ferguson shooting.

Here’s another one. Officers kill a suspect trying to stab his girlfriend.

Two major points from this incident: officers accidentally shot the girlfriend in the arm when they killed her boyfriend, and the girlfriend says repeatedly “Y’all didn’t have to do that.” In many domestic violence cases, the victim will claim she wasn’t in any danger and the officers didn’t have to take the action they did. This woman insisted the officers didn’t have to shoot; however, in the video (at around 00:57) we see the suspect trying so hard to stab her that the knife blade actually bends from the downward pressure.

The officers were obviously justified. The video proves it. But imagine how it would have been reported without that video.

“White officers shoot black woman while allegedly trying to save her from her black boyfriend. ‘They didn’t even have to shoot him,’ woman says. ‘He wasn’t really trying to hurt me.’”

Cameras may not be perfect, but they give us a better option than expecting everyone to believe us just because we’re cops. The public doesn’t give us that much benefit of the doubt anymore. But if we all have car and body cameras, and the public hears us testify to facts that are backed up by video, we’ll start getting that benefit of the doubt when there is no video. We cops should start demanding that our departments provide cameras. They’ll save a lot of officers who might otherwise be going through the same thing Darren Wilson is.

Method 3: End the Drug War (or at least legalize marijuana)

Many years ago I responded to a robbery call. A local teenager tried to rob a business owner at an ATM. The business owner knew who the teenager was, because he was a frequent customer. He gave me the name, I found an address in our system. Another officer and I went to the suspect’s house and knocked on the door.

A red-eyed man in his 30’s answered. The smell of marijuana flowed from the house. The man’s eyes widened when he realized we were cops. He yanked his head back into the house and almost slammed the door, but left it open just enough for me to see about half his face.

I asked, “Does John Smith live here?”

“Yeah he lives here. Why you asking?”

“Are you his father?”

“Yeah I’m his father!” the man blurted. “But he ain’t here!”

“Do you mind if we come in and check?”

“Why do you need to do that?” the man defensively asked. “I just told you he ain’t here!”

The man was nervous as hell. “Sir, your son is a suspect in a robbery,” I said, in as calm a voice as possible. “All I need to do is confirm he’s not inside. I don’t care about the marijuana.”

As soon as I said “I don’t care about the marijuana,” the man’s expression changed. The tension seemed to drain from his face. He relaxed, exhaled deeply, and opened the door.

“He’s not here, officer. I haven’t seen him for hours. Come on in.”

And just like that, an uncooperative family member became cooperative. He led us through the house, showed us his son’s room, gave us information about where his son might be, and thanked us as we left. He knew his son was a bad kid, and didn’t begrudge us for trying to catch him. He just didn’t want to be jacked with for smoking marijuana by himself in his own house. And I didn’t blame him.

Obviously, not every pot smoker will suddenly become pro-police if we ignore their marijuana use. But there are many people who smoke marijuana but aren’t criminals. They don’t get angry at us for arresting robbers, rapists and murderers, but they do get angry at us for throwing people in jail over the functional equivalent of drinking a few beers.

The Drug War, in addition to being unwinnable, has gained us more enemies than anything else over the last half-century. We’ve gained all these enemies because we cops have embraced drug enforcement and all the tactics that go with it. Every time we dig around someone’s groin for drugs, or breach a door for a no-knock warrant against a marijuana grower, or throw a flash-bang into a toddler’s crib during a raid, we turn more and more people against us. The excesses committed in our crusade to eradicate drugs have been so egregious, we’ve actually seen a grand jury in law-and-order Texas refuse to indict a marijuana dealer who killed a cop raiding his house. That grand jury, and much of America, decided drug use may be bad, but kicking in people’s doors to stop drug use is worse.

In most cops’ minds, “anyone involved with drugs” equals “bad guy”. I used to feel that way myself. And granted, a lot of drug users and dealers really are bad guys. But when we arrest for simple possession, we’re not discriminating between peaceful users and actual criminal thugs who happen to use or sell drugs. We don’t need to treat the kid smoking a joint in his apartment the same as the Mexican Mafia murderer who makes his living selling tons of weed and killing rival dealers.

For years I’ve heard drug users say, “Aw man, I ain’t hurtin’ nobody,” when we arrest them. For years, I’ve heard cops jokingly say, “Aw man, he ain’t hurtin’ nobody,” when they’re making fun of someone under arrest for drugs. I’ve said it myself. But now I realize a lot of them actually weren’t hurting anyone, and arresting them literally did nothing to protect the public. All we did was further overload the criminal justice system, create years of problems for people who weren’t criminals, and convince ourselves we had somehow accomplished something positive for society. And at the end of the shift many of us went home and had a beer, even though all cops know alcohol causes the same problems we accuse illegal drugs of causing.

Many cops will have a knee-jerk reaction against everything I just said. They’ll say, “We can’t legalize any drugs, not even marijuana! We don’t want people driving stoned!” or “Would you want your kid smoking weed?” Well, we don’t want people driving drunk either, but alcohol is legal. I don’t want my kids to drink at all (I don’t and never have), but it’s legal. In fact, whenever cops object to legalizing marijuana by saying “But marijuana is bad because (insert bad thing here)!” they should just switch out “marijuana” with “alcohol” and repeat the statement.

Of course, we cops can’t end the drug war on our own. But we can oppose it at the voting booth and make our feelings known, and we sure as heck don’t have to be enthusiastic about drug enforcement. A lot of cops already have shown their support for legalization in a survey conducted by PoliceOne, a law enforcement web site. 44% of officers surveyed were either pro-legalization or receptive to the idea.

http://www.policeone.com/chiefs-sheriffs/articles/4835061-Legalizing-marijuana-Police-officers-speak-out/

Guys, imagine an America where cops wear regular uniforms with body cameras and don’t jack with people for smoking a joint. Imagine how we’d be viewed if we’d only arrest bad guys for hurting others, instead of throwing people in jail for the type of cigarette they smoke. I think we’d get tons of support if the public knew our only job was to help victims and arrest the people who victimized them.

Maybe I’m wrong about this. Maybe all the ideas I have are off base and would lead to national disaster. Maybe. But I think it would be worth a shot to try them out anyway. Because what we’re doing now sure as hell isn’t working.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com.


After I published my opinion piece about the shooting in Ferguson Missouri, I received many emails from police officers and private citizens thanking me for writing it. I also received one message from a police officer who tried to explain how the job has changed him, and why he is the way he is. I thought his piece was well-written and extremely powerful, and received his permission to post it here. I think it might help some people to understand how difficult the job can be, and what can happen to even the best of us after we’ve worked the street long enough.

Again, I AM NOT THE AUTHOR OF THIS ESSAY. Furthermore, I have no way of verifying that the author is who he says he is, or that these incidents truly occurred. But his feelings and experiences certainly ring true.

I’ve written several posts about my experiences as a street cop. They can be found at http://chrishernandezauthor.com/category/what-police-work-is-really-like/. There’s one I haven’t written, about having to leave a screaming three year old boy with his worthless mother and her piece of crap ex-con boyfriend. The boyfriend hadn’t broken the law, but he hated the boy and constantly scared the hell out of him because the boy’s father belonged to a rival gang. The mother refused to let her sister take the boy out of the apartment. And I had to drive away and leave that little boy there. It’s not something I like to think about.

One of the stories this author tells reminded me a lot about driving away from that apartment while that little boy cried in fear. I understand why the author feels so guilty about it.

If you have any feedback I will pass it along to the author. Thanks,

Chris

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One of the reasons that police officers tend to be so passionate in police-related discussion threads is because they have personalized their jobs. Police work is not some YouTube video they watch, theorize about, and then go on about their regular life. For them, it’s not theory. Many police officers tend to define themselves by their jobs and their experiences in policing. Many counselors and LE trainers will tell you that it’s wrong and misguided to do so (“you” being cops in general). They’re right about that too. But such warnings rarely work in the real world. When a cop hears people earnestly criticizing police without knowing all the facts, it stings for some very personal reasons. When we hear others second guessing us, we are prone to simply saying that our critics don’t know what they are talking about. We get angry about it even though we probably shouldn’t. Please let me try to explain why.

This a very small sample of some real-world situations I have personally had to handle while serving as a police officer. Nothing is exaggerated. My experiences are neither unique nor special.

We received a call from a concerned citizen who stated that her friend may have done “something bad” to her family. Her friend had left her a rambling voicemail about “ending it all” and sending her family to Heaven. We responded to the house and made entry with our pistols drawn. We performed a slow search of the house and began to find bodies inside. Our search and the subsequent investigation revealed that the woman had taken a .38 revolver and murdered her husband by shooting him in the head as he slept. There was a perfect hole in his left ear where she missed his skull and put a bullet through his ear and into the bed. The other bullet had landed dead center in his skull and killed him while he was taking a nap. Her daughter in the next room had obviously heard the shots and had piled her clothes and bedding on top of her bed and then attempted to hide under the pile. The women then went into her daughter’s room, pulled the clothing out of the way, and shot her daughter two times in the face. The girl did not die immediately. She lingered for hours. The mound of pink foam that collected on her face and throat was evidence of her labored breathing that lasted for some time before she finally died. After shooting her daughter, the woman went into her bedroom and sat on the bed. She reloaded the revolver from a small box of ammunition. She fired a single “test round” into the ceiling (this is common in suicides). She then fired a single round into the side of her own head and died on the bed. So there we are searching a house and finding a scene with three dead people…a whole family dead. And we’re supposed to act like everything is routine and fine, especially because there’s so much media there with their high-quality cameras and super long lenses. We secure the scene, call CID, call the ME, and do our reports. We help load bodies into the Meat Wagon…yeah that’s what we call it….and then we go home. The man died quick but I try to forget what that girl’s face looked like.

We receive a call of a single car accident near the High School. The call notes state that a car struck a pedestrian. By pure luck (either good or bad) I am literally around the corner when the call comes out. My response time is about 10 seconds. When I arrive on the scene, I observe a small 4-door import vehicle at an intersection. There is a 15-year-old female laying in the street. The amount of blood coming out of her head is the same size as the flow of water that comes out of my water hose when I turn it on. Except this is bright, red blood flowing out of her head in a stream that is about ¾” of an inch in diameter. I can smell the blood. The odor is thick in the air and it flows in a thick, viscous stream on the pavement. She looks me in the eye and says, “It hurts,” and then she dies right in front of me. I maintain my composure and then I find out who the driver is. It’s a 16-year-old girl who just got her license. She mistook the gas pedal for the brake pedal when the victim stepped out into the roadway and she panicked when the car accelerated instead of slowing down. I look at the windshield on the car and see a large tuft of hair and scalp lodged in the spiderwebbed glass. I realize that it’s from the dead 15-year-old girl. The boy who had been walking with the dead girl just before she got hit has speckled blood all over his face and he doesn’t even know it. He was just a young man trying to hold her hand and maybe sneak a kiss. He asks me, “Is she going to die?” I tell him the truth because I owe him that much. Later, as I direct traffic and watch that girl’s blood literally run down the gutter and into the street drain, a crowd of citizens gathers nearby. One loud-mouthed man in the crowd says, “This kind of stuff wouldn’t happen if these cops would do their jobs.” My first instinct is to leave my post, walk over to him, and cave his ignorant face in. But I don’t. I show no emotion. I hold my anger inside because I also want to cry for the girl and her family. I am the last person she ever saw on this earth and there was nothing I could do for her.

We respond to a call at a Section 8 apartment where a baby is not breathing. It turns out that while the mother was earning minimum wage at Wendy’s, her Mexican Mafia boyfriend got tired of the crying baby. He pulled the 3 month old baby out of the crib, raised her over his head, and threw her on the floor as hard as he could. The fall fractured her skull, shattered her pelvis, broke her pliable ribs, and killed her. As we investigate further, we find there’s another bedroom with a hasp lock on the outside. Entering the bedroom, we find two more girls in there. They look like they are 2 and 4 years old. We later learn they are actually 4 and 6 years old but they are malnourished and under-stimulated. They are wearing filthy, stained panties and nothing else. The room is void of toys or decorations of any kind. There are two little beds on either side of the room and the whole filthy room stinks of urine. There are screws in the window so that it cannot be opened. A search of the room reveals that there is another hasp lock on the closet door. I look into the closet and a chill comes over me when I realize that Mexican Mafia boyfriend was keeping these little girls prisoner inside that closet for God knows how long. There are scratch marks all around the doorknob inside the closet where they tried to get out. The closest reeks of human waste and the carpet is matted. As I help them get dressed so they can go with Child Protective Services, the younger girl clings to my arm. She squeezes my right arm as hard as she can and will not let go. The other girl lets me tie the three little bows on the back of her blue dress and then she starts jumping up and down in pure excitement while she asks me over and over and over again, “Are we going for a ride? Are we going for a ride?” It’s all I can do to maintain my composure. This 6-year-old girl is the same size as my own 4-year-old daughter. No matter how much I drink, and no matter how far I ride my motorcycle, I cannot shake the effect this girl has had on me. I was powerless to stop it. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t solve it. I used to weep, shake, and cry as I thought about how happy those girls were to be taken out of there. I am later ashamed that I did not try to adopt them. I curse myself for not trying harder to take them both into my own home even though I know that I could not afford to take on two more children in addition to my own. Even as I type these words, I feel intense guilt for not taking those girls home with me….as if that would ever be allowed. Every time I drink too much, I think about those two little girls imprisoned in that room and their dead sister in the room next door. But I’m a tough cop who’s not supposed to admit to those emotions. I later learned that the mother gave up all parental rights to the two girls and they were put in the foster care system.

I’m working as a Sergeant on evening-shift Patrol. A citizen calls in and says that he lives across the street from a house where we just responded to a disturbance. He says that he watched as the officers confronted his neighbor who is normally a nice guy. He explains the horror that he experienced as he watched the police use a Taser on his neighbor and he angrily describes the screams that he heard from his neighbor as he was Tasered and then arrested. He uses words and phrases like, “torture,” “excessive use of force,” and “Nazis,” to describe his perspective of the arrest. He says that one of the officers used profanity while wrestling in the mud with his neighbor and that he is offended that his wife heard this profanity from a member of what used to be a professional police department. He explains that he wants to file a formal complaint on the officer who used the profanity and every officer who was party to using the Taser on his neighbor. He states that he is concerned with the quality of officers that we are hiring these days. There’s no way the citizen can possibly know that his normally nice neighbor beat his wife’s face in with an angel figurine and that she will require major reconstructive surgery to ever look normal again. All he knows is that he saw some unpleasantness in the front yard of his neighbor’s property and it didn’t look right to him.

My mind begins to wander as the citizen continues speaking and repeating himself for the fifth time. I wonder if he and his family are healthy. I can’t help it but I think about whether or not he’s ever had someone else’s blood on him. I think about how my rifle has felt in my hands on critical calls and I wonder if he has ever been fired upon or had to return fire. I think about the meth freak who shot at us with a 12 gauge shotgun a few weeks ago. I listen to the citizen rant and rave and rage against the Department and I think about how just last week, I tried to talk to an 8-year old boy while the brains and blood of that boy’s father dripped from the ceiling and onto my uniform. His father put his brains on the ceiling with a .357 Magnum which he fired into his mouth as the boy watched. The boy asked me if his Daddy was going to be OK even as his father’s blood was spreading across the floor behind me. I can still smell the dead man’s brains and blood and I can still see the face of that boy as I tried to tell him that his Daddy was gone. I try as hard as I can to take the citizen’s complaint seriously but there is a part of me that wants to reach through the phone and strangle him with all the strength I have in my hands. I listen patiently and speak in a monotone, emotionless voice. I take his name, and promise him that I will address his complaint with the officer, which I later do. There are times when I wish with all my heart that the biggest problem I had to deal with was watching some cop use a Taser on a non-compliant suspect. I would subject myself to a thousand Taser shots if I never had to see that little girl’s face again. I would plead guilty to almost any offense and throw myself on the mercy of any court if I could just get that little girl’s voice out of my head with her little child-sing-songy voice saying, “Are we going for a ride? Are we going for a ride?”

Have I personalized some things? Yes, I have. It’s impossible not to. Am I normal? Hell no, I am not normal. I’m pretty far from normal. Shortly after taking that last complaint, I spent the next three years overseeing investigations of aggravated sexual assaults against children, burnings, cuttings, electrical cord whippings, child pornography, beatings of almost unbelievable magnitude, and mothers whoring out their 10 year old daughters, among other wonderful things. At the end of the day, I would go home and just sit quietly for a while and look at my normal, healthy kids as they ate or played.

These days, I occupy a slightly higher position in the Department and I’m almost done with my Master’s degree. I pore over peer-reviewed, scholarly articles and I write formal papers for school. I deal in facts and figures and spreadsheets nowadays while also overseeing the Training Unit. I am asked for my opinions on policy issues. I attend meetings with upper-level administrators in aseptic rooms where everything is under control and there is no hint of danger. Still, the faces of the dead and the smell of their blood are always with me. Even so, it’s not the dead I fixate on, it’s the living. I think about the hand that others have been dealt and how there’s nothing I can do to change it. I think about how those children will turn out in 20 years and how so many cops out there are just trying their best to hold everything together in a sea of entropy.

I carry my own weight. Whether you want to believe it or not, I also carry your weight sometimes. All cops carry the weight of others because that’s one of the things we are paid to do, even if it’s not listed on a civil service job description anywhere. I consider myself a servant. Ultimately…that’s what police officers are. They’re servants.

I have nightmares sometimes but my experience is not unique. It’s commonplace among police officers. That’s why some cops get irritated when citizens suggest that we are overpaid or that we don’t deserve the pension that was promised to us after 25 years of service, or criticize things that are only theory for them. It’s not theory for us. It’s not theory for me. I have the scars on my knuckles and my soul to prove it.

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Thanks very much to the anonymous author for that insight. I hope everyone who read it learned something worthwhile.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve?ref=bookmarks.


Sorry guys, I got all tied up with the furor over the Ferguson essay I wrote and haven’t posted the remaining chapters of my Iraq war crime series. I realize I’m inherently biased about this, but I think it’s a hell of an interesting story. Please check it out, and links to each chapter can be found in the last chapter. Thanks,

Chris

http://www.breachbangclear.com/war-crimes-hard-choices-and-harder-consequences-part-viii/

http://www.breachbangclear.com/war-crimes-hard-choices-and-harder-consequences-part-ix/

http://www.breachbangclear.com/war-crimes-hard-choices-and-harder-consequences-the-aftermath/

http://www.breachbangclear.com/hard-choices-and-harder-consequences-lessons-learned/

4452_1084593231917_5914735_n (2)
Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com.




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