THE MAGAZINE

Blurring Military and Police Roles

By Marleen Easton, et al.; Reviewed by Ross Johnson, CPP

***** Blurring Military and Police Roles. Edited by Marleen Easton, et al. Eleven International Publishing, www.elevenpub.com; 239 pages; $49.00.

An absence of war does not guarantee that the conditions for democracy and a stable economy will take root. To achieve this, nations need security at the community level: freedom from the burdens of crime, terrorism, corruption, reprisal, and all the other social diseases that follow in the wake of warfare. To achieve this, countries have enlisted military forces as “peacekeepers” who have policing roles.

Blurring Military and Police Roles is a fascinating collection of scholarly essays on this subject from both the police and military points of view, as well as from historical, organizational, and operational perspectives. It is current, including lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, and historical, reaching as far back as Colonial South Asia and beyond. The first part of the book deals with context and concepts, and the second with the implications and challenges of this evolution of security.

In the first part, the chapter “Blending Through International Deployment,” is particularly interesting. The author, David Last, compares and contrasts the role of police and military through history, including the very recent experience in Afghani­stan. He points out that police and military forces evolve to meet the needs of the state but are changed by their experiences, including foreign operations. Last also demonstrates how the police and the military forces can be viewed as being on a continuum of increasing size and violence that starts with police and continues through SWAT teams, paramilitary groups, special forces, and counterterrorism units, and ends with the military—a nation’s last word in the use of force.

The book makes it clear that there are other forces at work beyond peacekeeping operations that push police and militaries closer together. It warns that as the two institutions move toward a common center, we run the risk of militarizing the police and creating militaries ideally suited for domestic policing. We see evidence of this around us: Western police forces have been in an arms race with criminals since the first SWAT team was fielded in Los Angeles in 1968, and U.S. National Guard troops have been used to restore order or to enforce laws in many states including Arkansas, New York, California, Ohio, and Texas.

In the second part of the book, in the chapter “Police Reform and Ownership in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Susanne Huiberts-van Dijk discusses the tensions that external peacekeeping forces can create merely by their presence. I saw this firsthand in my own field experience. The realization that peacekeeping and peace enforcement could create, at the same time, economic difficulty and dependence, resentment, and appreciation by the locals was disturbing for me.

Blurring Military and Police Roles does not seek to offer definitive answers or to criticize; it is intended to provoke thought and discussion. It is written for criminologists, sociologists, and advanced security practitioners, particularly policymakers in both policing and military operations. My only regret is that it lacks an index, the presence of which would greatly enhance its utility as a research tool.


Reviewer: Ross Johnson, CPP, is the senior manager of security and contingency planning of Capital Power Corporation in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is also the author of The Sword and The Shield: Antiterrorism Planning for Corporations and Non-Governmental Organizations. Previously, he was a military observer for the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization in the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, and the head of intelligence for the second United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda. Johnson is a member of ASIS International.
 

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