By Lee Fisher, Miami Graduate Student, Vietnam Veteran
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Steven Benyon’s recent comments in the Miami Student in the article, “Police starting to protect and serve themselves,” about police actions in our society shared some distortions that would lead readers to believe that the majority of our public servants are not trained or equipped to handle threats. His equation of police reaction to a perceived threat and patrol in Afghanistan skews that fact that in any conflict whether at home or abroad there are casualties. In almost every instance, everywhere, these casualties arise from one individual exercising their trained judgment about a threat that is in front of them. Whether soldier or police, the institutions they represent afford them the best equipment that is necessary to counter these threats.
Mr. Benyon’s comments would, further, lead readers to believe that the Rules of Engagement that he says are used by today’s military has, somehow, eliminated civilian casualties in Afghanistan by Coalition forces, including Americans. There are thousands of documented accounts from every recorded conflict in our country’s history of the wrong people being hurt or killed based on the judgment of an individual soldier perceiving that his or her life was threatened. As a soldier in Vietnam, I was never instructed to analyze a person’s intent before I reacted to my training and defended myself. To expect our public servants who are confronted by threat on the street to do psychoanalysis of a threat before reacting would induce a fatal error.
Many of our armed, public servants come from military backgrounds. My guess is that this is true of both the Oxford and University police forces. Around the clock, they are trained to protect us; but this does not come at the sacrifice of not protecting themselves. Do they make errors-most certainly. Do they carry themselves in a protect-and-serve manner- most assuredly. Unfortunately, they cannot pull a flower out of a holster when it comes to their perception of what they see in front of them.