Soldiers or Police?

The Domestic Soldier (DS) is my alternative name for police officers in the United States. The basic reason I am applying this designation is that a DS is an individual who provides physical protective services to the homeland. This soldier is recruited, trained and educated in domestic warfare.

We usually don’t think of our law enforcement professionals as soldiers. In fact they are usually thought of as very different from military soldiers. The DS works in agencies all across the country serving citizens. This new way of thinking about law enforcement professionals is important because we must understand that the “front lines” have moved. Regardless of the agency he or she works for, the DS is our last line of defense and in some cases our first line of defense.

There are several reasons this new distinction is important. A soldier on foreign soil is provided with rules of engagement (ROE). These rules of engagement provide guidance for the soldier with respect to “doing his job”. The ROE for a domestic soldier is a complex set of rules, laws, best practices and usually a massive SOP or Standard Operating Procedures that try to tie all of this together into a guiding document. While I am in no way suggesting that a military soldier is subjected to any less pressure with respect to the carrying out his or her duties, I am suggesting that the domestic soldier is immediately scrutinized in a way that most military soldiers engaged in warfare are not.

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Kenneth Watkins


You have a very interesting blog here. However, for a couple of reasons I believe more clarification is warranted.

First, both soldiers and police officers are agents of government.

The constitution provides for a standing state and national militia with the intent to defend states and the nation against threats, both foreign and domestic.

A police department is an authorized civil enforcement entity defined by the jurisdiction it represents in order to execute its duties/orders of protecting the civil and criminal interest of its designated population.

A soldier policing a country or a foreign territory is governed by the established rules of engagement for their theater of operations (usually dictated by the character of their mission), their regional and theater commander’s directive, the Geneva Convention, and finally the US Constitution.

Yet, in the case of a police unit, their mission remains exclusively and always, to maintain and protect the civil and criminal interest of its population.

When you invoke the term “soldier” and apply its classic definition, you inevitably embrace the idea of a uniformed force arrayed against a common enemy, with specific military duties/orders, and under the control of a central command apparatus.

Second, you must contrast a soldier’s “duties/orders” against a “police officer’s “duties/orders.”

I view the duties/orders of soliders and police officers as radically different and using classic notions of civil liberties, I’d hope most citizens would feel the same way. Both of their missions are extremely fluid and dangerous.

However, in the case of police officers their relationship to respecting and adhering to the tenets of civil liberties and civil rights is far more tenuous than that of a soldier. The only time that standard varies is in the event of “martial law” being declared.

I have the beautiful pleasure of having served and serving my country in a lot of ways, so I respect the work both of these group must do on behalf of their country.

It’s my belief that the most important and sacred condition of being an American is being able to exercise your civil liberties/rights without arbitrary, radical, and capricious intervention by agents of your own government.

With all that said, you may differ in your view and I respect that; but I felt some clarification might be useful.

the Pragmatic Bohemian

Andy Willis

Firstly, let me start by saying that you have an impressive page of accomplishments and the like. It appears that we were both at Memphis State at the same time. I graduated the year after you. Keith Lee, Andre Turner and that great crew were around in those days! Are you a practicing attorney now?
On to the post:
Your comments are very nicely put. I appreciate your perspective more than you can know. I too have served our wonderful country in a number of different ways and have been in both of the roles discussed. I am a strict constitutionalist and am in no way trying to blur the lines between a military soldier and a domestic soldier. The designation that I am trying to create by this action has a two pronged intent. Firstly, and most importantly, the role of law enforcement is one of “Protection” for the citizenry not one of oppression.
I am not sure what you meant when you said
“Yet, in the case of a police unit, their mission remains exclusively and always, to maintain and protect the civil and criminal interest of its population”.
I am not sure how we are tasked to protect the criminal interests of our population. I am sure that you really mean something other than what that sounds like to me – but I wanted to point it out.
A military soldier stands in the gap. This is the gap between freedom and oppression, the gap between terror and peace. She/he serves to protect our ability to live freely in our country, free from bombs on the roadside, free from mortar attacks in the middle of the night, and free from the possibility that a crazed madman will march his army into our sovereign land and rape our women, kill our children and steal our stuff.
The perception is that this individual, the military soldier stands with his back to us – looking outward towards the enemy, ever vigilant, ever ready. The perception is that the military soldier stands with us and is never perceived to stand against us. These things are true and we live in a great country that provides such warriors to stand there in the gap for me. That gap between light and dark, good and evil.
Now, when we look at the police, we as a nation look at them in a totally different way. As you pointed out in your comments,
“However, in the case of police officers their relationship to respecting and adhering to the tenets of civil liberties and civil rights is far more tenuous than that of a soldier. The only time that standard varies is in the event of “martial law” being declared”
While your comment is true, it does not address what I am trying to say in my blog. I am saying that the folks that work in law enforcement also stand in the gap between good and evil, light and dark. LEO’s are in fact domestic soldiers standing in the gap between the citizens of our great nation and those that would seek to destroy it. There is a HUGE difference between a military soldier and a domestic soldier. However, the front lines of those who would choose to destroy our country have moved, in case you haven’t noticed.
Today, there is a terrorist planning an attack on targets here in this country. His plan involves killing my children and yours, my spouse and yours. He even plans to kill us if given the opportunity. The interesting thing about this guy is he is already here. He’s not lurking in a cave in a far away land – he has an apartment over on 3rd Avenue or Front Street. He works at the hardware store on the corner or the gas station that you drive into every few days. The front line is a little closer than you thought a few minutes ago – the front line of our battle against evil, against the darkness is right outside of our front door.
Unless, you plan to arm our citizenry against this eventuality, we need to make some changes in the way we look and deal with US Law Enforcement Professionals. Today, our Law Enforcement Professionals stand with their backs to us looking out over the horizon for that enemy. Law enforcement officers stand with the citizenry of the United States, not against them. We must get over this notion that “the cops” are to be feared and are inherently against us. Quite the contrary is true. So the first prong is that that Law Enforcement Officers stand against the enemy of the people just like a military soldier, except they do it right here in the homeland (domestically). Thus the designation of Domestic Soldier is applicable. To stop there would be a huge disservice to LEO’s. They’re also tasked with all of the other duties that make them the great servants that they are.
The second prong of my intent is that the training and continued state of readiness that is necessary to carry out the duties of modern law enforcement are similar to that of military training. If you look around at modern law enforcement, you will see lots of “soft centers”. This would never be acceptable in a military environment. And as a result of that one thing, you will find folks everywhere laughing about the “fat cop” eating a donut. The fact is that they are right! It is a joke and should be a point of serious concern for modern law enforcement professionals.
The connotation of a soldier is that of a fit individual that is always ready to serve. It also evokes images of someone that the bad guy doesn’t want to mess with. The training, equipment and image of professionals in law enforcement should be on par with that of our military soldiers. A designation of Domestic Soldier helps to create a new mind set for those seeking to enter this profession. It also has the ability to help evoke a new image for Professional Law Enforcement Officers within our citizenry, one of a fit professional that is properly equipped and ready to stand in the gap between us and the bad guys.

I want to again say that I truly appreciate your perspective and I hope that you are able to hear what I am saying. I am in no way saying that LEO’s need to be categorized as a military soldier – I am saying that they are Domestic Soldiers standing alongside all of us, ready to fight evil when it shows up.
Andy Willis

Kenneth Watkins

Thanks for the feed back Andy (“go Tigers go!”),

I did not finish law school, and I don’t plan to go back, cause I love the work that I do.

You’re right about the “protecting civil and criminal liberties” comment. What I meant was protecting the public’s civil interests and protecting the public against criminal activities.

Even so, I appreciate your explanation. I simply wanted to bring some clarity to the distinctions between the two elements (solider and policer officer), which I view as very important as a part of civil rights and the social fabric of law-abiding America.

I respect your profession and I hope you stay safe out there on the mean streets of Memphis.

Great blog, though…

go Tigers go!


It’s way too late at night for me to follow all the points above, but please allow me to add my two cents. When I hear a term like Domestic Soldier, I think of one thing: martial law. And, I agree that this is what our domestic law enforcement officers have become, to a large degree. And lefties like myself have heard about groups like Blackwater being redeployed to domestic duty stations, ready to keep us down should the Bushies want it so.

If I understand correctly, Andy, you are saying that domestic officers do not have the same protection as military soldiers. Rather than agree that they need it, I would say that we need to pull back from the idea of domestic police being “soldiers.” I think we SHOULD think of police as different from military. I think it is very, very dangerous to combine the two. Once you go there, all it takes is a really corrupt government successful at manipulating the public with fear — and you have martial law.

I’m down with respecting the service our domestic officers and our military commits to — as a former peace officer, I totally understand. I just can’t help but get nervous when I hear talk of police being a military force. The founding fathers fought and died to keep that divide. I think it’s a slippery slope. And I respectfully ask to agree to disagree that we are in no way in any danger of a “madman marching his army into our country… rape our women.” I’m sorry, I just can’t go there. Yes, we have enemies — but one attack will not convince me to live in perpetual fear and thus relinquish my rights to what in all essence amounts to martial law.

Andy Willis

Well, it’s 4:00 AM and I am on my way to a lab in Huntsville this morning – but I think your comment is absolutely worth discussing. If you look deeply at what I am saying – and I can provide further writings to clarify if you are interested – the concept of the Domestic Soldier – it is not and never has been one of “MILITARY”. That is in fact a slippery slope and I do not say that our domestic soldiers are or should be military. Here is a very distinct and HUGE difference – as well there should be.
What I am saying is that the modern day law enforcement officer working today in the United States is called upon more and more to become a soldier from time to time than a typical local constable.
What I am calling for here is a recognition that these individuals (of which I am included) are increasingly sent into harm’s way without the same support that we provide military soldiers. We would never send one military soldier to a situation in Baghdad to arrest a suspected Al Qaida member thought to be held up in a house. We would send a unit of men, supported by helicopters, JSF flyovers and a looking glass, in-orbit, on-station above. We would approach this arrest with an overwhelming emphasis on protecting those individuals that go there to affect that arrest.
When in reality, the gang-member drug dealer that we go to serve an arrest warrant on in downtown Memphis, Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, LA, (you fill in the city) is far more armed, trained, prepared and lethal than the fella wearing the pajamas and sandals carrying his 50 year old AK-47 in Baghdad.
My premise that modern Police Officers are Domestic Soldiers NEVER asks that we call them MILITARY anything. It never suggests that we give them military power. The slippery slope is for folks to read this without reading the words and making a leap to assume that we are asking that our modern LEO’s have military power. On that front you and I agree – Military power is reserved for the military. I am simply saying that modern LEO’s are soldiers in their own right!

Christa M. Miller

“The slippery slope is for folks to read this without reading the words and making a leap to assume that we are asking that our modern LEO’s have military power.”

Trouble is, people WILL do this. Because they have the attention span of gnats on speed when online. I take the time to read info (twice and three times if I have to) and ask questions if I don’t understand… but that’s part of my job.

Wonder if there is a more, hmm, diplomatic term to get the point across without offending? (PC if you will, only not watering down the meaning… I guess the difference between PC and diplomacy…)

Andy Willis

Bob and Christa,
Thanks very much for your comments and insight. As Bob pointed out – it is very important that we as Americans (all Americans – North, Central and South Americans) support law enforcement. I have spent time in Canada, The US (obviously) and every Central American country (not South America however), and the efforts of LEO’s are the force that protects us from chaos. In certain Central American countries LEO’s are attacked and murdered because they are not supported by their countrymen or their government. That tragedy weakens us as civil peace loving people – all of us. And those LEO’s that stand in the gap between good and evil are there to allow all of us to enjoy the fullest measure of freedom.
Thanks for your commitment to the work that they (we) do!
Andy Willis
…perform the extraordinary, even when the ordinary is acceptable…

Al Fullbright

The fact is that Police have far more power than the Armies of Patriots that freed this country from british rule. The police however, are a loose mob compared to the actions of the military directed by the government. 50 state governments with different enforcement and laws, and thousands of local jurisdictions make police protection spotty and focused on local problems.

One locale might consider “certain people” undesirable and crack down on that group hard. The same people in a different locale see things differently. The drug war and Mormon Marriages come to mind. Gun rights are another. Discrimination rears its head often.

However, when we have so many people in our prison’s and the average citizen is afraid of the police (not because they did anything wrong, but because they might be arrested mistakenly, unfairly prosecuted or because of their color). We need to do a lot more to reach a state of peace between the people on the street and the police. Revamping some laws could help.

The drug war thing is getting out of hand. We have pushed it so hard that our kids all have criminal records and hundreds of thousands have been disenfranchized by losing their voting rights over petty crapola. The rich kids lawyer up and the poor kids go to jail. Rich people use Zanex and Oxy’s, and the poor people smoke pot. When the police interupt the pot supply, kids turn to crack and meth or get blasted on booze. Its pretty hard to cut off the Zanex and Oxy’s. When the interuption is over, everything goes back to normal.

Gains by the police are only temporary because there is no public concensus that the police are right. People dont want meth and heroin on the streets, but whenever there is a drug bust it turns out to be Marijuana.

There are a lot of people who veiw marijuana use as harmless – a fact born out by scientific studies. In fact, if all marijuana busts were eliminated from the record, the war on drugs would be an abject failure.

Other types of drug abuse are occupationally distributed. Atheletes will lawyer up if anyone tries to catch them. Movie stars doctor shop and have their own coke suppliers. Truckers – speed, and special kits to spoil drug testing. And Cops are notorious for drinking problems. But we seldom catch any of those specialties in our common war on drugs.

We bust Pot-heads. And people worry about police excess and the future of their children if they are caught during a Michael Phelps episode.

Hundreds of thousands are in jail for pot (800,000 is the number I think) and the corporate elite shake us down for billions leaving the police to pick up the peices of poverty and street crime.

Andy Willis

So Al – tell the truth (if you will) – are you a person who likes to smoke pot? I find it very interesting to hear your comments here. I have heard these same words many times and even as recently as last week. Seems every time I hear them – they seem to be spoken from a person who likes to smoke some weed. I’m not judging – I’m just asking.

But, I will judge your seemingly short sighted comment about police officers in this forum. You have strayed way off topic here and while I appreciate your “RIGHT” to say whatever you want – you really haven’t added much to this conversation.
But since you brought the topic up – seems that you have a serious passion for legalizing the use of marijuana. I respect that point of view because I respect your “RIGHT” to have it and espouse it. Oh, and by the way when it comes to drug use, the conversation is far more complex than just the legality of “use”. Use results in some affect on the user that causes them to be different than what they are normally. In the case of marijuana, it is a psychoactive drug (to quote wiki) that has varying effects. However, the psychoactive nature of the substance is a good reason to NOT use it.

There are serious crimes that will cost people their very lives TONIGHT because some thug idiot drug user makes a bad decision and shoots someone or stabs someone or gets behind the wheel of a car or truck or 18-wheeler and runs over some poor mother and her children in their mini-van.

Do I sound angry? Well, I am angry because no matter what you say because you have a “RIGHT” to say it – what I have just said will be true tonight and tomorrow night and every night for the next month as long as idiots decide to use mind altering drugs and get high and go out into society. There is a reason that many drugs are illegal to use – they have some negative effects for the rest of society.

Marijuana is a substance that has been debated for a long time – but tonight someone using marijuana that decides to drive under its influence will kill someone else. No scientific study that you can produce, that shows that marijuana use is harmless will ever bring them back. Maybe you will somehow make that the fault of the police – but the plain truth is – it will be the fault of the idiot who chose the use the marijuana.

Al, I don’t know what your background is or what you do for a living. But, before you go making statements about police activities that you clearly have no real information about – take another hit on that joint you just rolled and let the smoke put you into a more sedate state that helps you realize that you should keep your mouth shut!

Al Fullbright

I have smoked pot whenever I had the urge since I was fifteen years old . The war on drugs has spent a lot of money with little or no effect. Pot is regularly available and becoming legal more places all the time.That is not to say I use it always or regularly. Most of my life I had drug tests so I didn’t smoke, I drank whiskey. I had trouble quitting drinking, but I usually only smoke during social times like many people might have a drink. I have never seen anyone get violent while smoking pot, but add a case of beer, a quart of booze, or some speed and the fight starts.

Pot has little effect on crime except for the danger of being arrested. It is telling that we have more people in prison for smoking pot in this country than any other civilized country. The police will never make peace with the general population unless this law is changed.

I agree that hard drugs have a negative effect on the population, but I do not agree that marijuana is a hard drug. Its actually milder than booze. Its just easier for the cops to catch pot-heads and it makes a big show for enforcement when cops can show a bust, but it does little to protect the country. In fact, having that many of our young people in prison for such a things lends credence to claims of malicious prosecution and unbridled police power.

America is beginning to be known as the people who lock people up. We have more prisons than any country. It is telling that generations later and years afterward Prison Fortresses speak loudly about cruelty and inhumanity. Whether it be the prison Fortress in Uganda that held negro slaves, the Nazi concentration camps, Devil’s Island, Abu Grave or Guantanamo; these names will live in infamy because they speak about excesses and inhumanity.

It doesn’t matter that we think our laws are just. The people that ran those prisons and torture chambers believed in what they were doing too. It doesn’t matter that our police excesses aren’t as bad as they were back in history. What matters is that laws should reflect civil beliefs and that punishments fit the crime.
The pot-heads wont spend long in jail and they will hate the system afterwards.

Considering that the Constitution is written on hemp, I doubt if the founding fathers intended for hundreds of thousands of people in America to systematically lose their right to vote for possesing marijuana. Those people will light a joint on election day and tell their children that America is unjust.

The irony is that most pot-smokers dont like other types of drug use and would probably be potent allies for the police if they weren’t persecuted.

Al Fullbright

I originally tried to make a statement about reconciling police power with public veiws to improve relations with the police. I am sorry that you feel I am the enemy somehow because I broach this subject.

I would like to point out that I am not smoking pot and have never been arrested for it or for DUI but I counsel many who have had problems. Its not the pot, ITS THE BOOZE that is the problem, and you are never going to outlaw anything that is so easy to make, just like you are not going to be able to outlaw pot because it grows wild in many of America’s climates. Pot has always been here and will always be here.

Al Fullbright

You are probably right about my comment about cops tho. Its because thats the common stereotype. The stereotype is donuts and beer, but most of the cops I met were serious individuals with strong family ties. The ones I have known away from work were hard drinkers, but America is on the Juice, so that is not uncommon. I have to respect their dedication to their work but I would really rather see a less militaristic veiw when dealing with low level social problems. Save the guns and prisons for the real bad guys.

Al Fullbright

When I started this conversation, I wanted to extend an olive branch and some logic for making peace btween police and citizens, so that we dont need an army of cops, but we seem to have digressed into fictitious and incredulous scenarios and blame that have no basis in truth or evidence.

We were talking about Marijuana, but you are making some kind of general hypothetical attack on a “THUG IDIOT DRUG USERS”. Even the President has used pot. Pot users as a rule are non-aggressive (Statistically). Methamphetamine addicts, Crack Cocaine addicts, Heroin Addicts and Drinkers all have higher statistical correlations with bad driving and traffic accidents. All of those are true addictions. Teenagers represent the highest number of traffic accidents – impaired or unimpaired.

You said ” tonight someone using marijuana that decides to drive under its influence will kill someone else.” Generalities are not facts. The statement is an assumption, not a fact, and not statistically correct either according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission.

The study examined 1,882 accidents in seven states, all of which resulted in the driver’s death. In each case, blood drawn from the driver was tested for traces of 24 drugs. Based on official records, a researcher who did not know the results of the drug test independently assessed the driver’s responsibility for the accident.

Drivers under the influence of alcohol alone (about 40 percent of the sample) were significantly more likely than drug-free drivers to be deemed responsible for their accidents. But drivers under the influence of marijuana alone (about 1 percent of the sample) were no more likely than drug-free drivers to be deemed responsible. “There was no indication that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes,”
There is no statisical basis for believing marijuana is responsible for traffic accidents. In fact nearly every case seems to be more about drinking with the person testing positive for pot, not marijuana alone. Obviously a drunk person cannot drive properly whether he is smoking cigarettes or a joint.

Drinkers are by far the worst statisically. Whenever you do the statistics, Marijuana never comes close to living up to the bad reputation that generalized statements about any other DRUGS recieve. People are hearing assumptions like the one you made and assuming them to be true because it comes from the Police. You are spreading misinformation.

People might die because of bad drivers, but lets not make up bad scenarios then blame them on the wrong thing or person. The evidence does not support your hypothesis. There are no statistics to identify the “THUG IDIOT DRUG USERS” and the statistics dont hold true for pot smokers either.

And by the way, this is a public forum. It is here to use the freedom of the press not as you said “KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT!” I am too old to worry about threatening police tactics. You seem to be just another overzealous cop looking to make a name for himself. We dont need SOLDIER COPS, we need citizen cops. We should only have police officers under the command of Elected Sheriffs who are from the local community.

Daniel Bevarly

Six years later with the state of local law enforcement currently under a microscope due to selective enforcement and profiling, abuse of authority to elevate the use of violence against unarmed law breakers and lawful citizens, militarizing police departments with surplus military equipment and weaponry via DoD’s 1033 program, I’m disturbed by the label “Domestic Soldier.” I’m a huge fan of LEO and policing in general with an educational and professional background to back it up. However the culture shift toward militarization and away from public service is not in the best interest of the public and has a negative effect on a community’s civic infrastructure. A product of local government, police officers are still public employees, not soldiers. They are not militias as envisioned by the Founders. And citizens have the same right to have oversight over them and their agencies just as we have for other government agencies and public officials.