Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Defence, Offence and being part of the worlds police force

This article prompted this post Once upon a while ago I was working with military officers who were studying to move into the mysterious world of higher command. It was one of the final phases of a year-long course that would see the soldiers pass from captain to major and beyond and the equivalent ranking navy and air force officers doing the same. I was there because of the particular role I had in my police force, that being firearms and CT operations. The idea was that this would give my khaki-clad classmates an insight into the vagaries of policing in what, for them, was low intensity warfare - N.B. for `low intensity` think small calibre, >7.62mm bullets rather than heavy artillery. I made it clear from the outset that, as far as I was concerned, any bullets coming my way definitely made it a `high intensity` scenario which they all found jolly funny, bless `em. Three weeks into my stay and I had met Terry Waite, Ken Livingstone and any number of high profile people involved in many and varied situations of conflict, including the first Gulf War. The lectures were totally absorbing but the `house rules` and my own sense of the need for discretion in such matters prevent me from divulging much of what was covered, even after all this time - I have my standards! I had role-played at a number of tabletop exercises including such things as being the chief of police of a `friendly foreign country's` capital city police force. The country was in crisis and was receiving `training and support` from the British military. No names, no pack drill, (but it was set in Belize). I found the experience very interesting, particularly in how it helped the budding colonels get their heads around the fact that, in such situations, the chief of police has primacy. The syndicate instructor, a wise Lt. Colonel, discretely briefed me that, despite being given the rules in a previous session, the military would conveniently forget them and would politely but firmly run roughshod all over me, but that I was to play along until they presented their plan which would be totally at odds with how things were done in a civilian world, at which point I would reject it out of hand and how they'd get all upset with me, throw their guns out of the pram and withdraw to the mess to plan their revenge. But I was not to take it personally. He was absolutely correct, but their revenge was had several evenings later, in the mess, when I least expected it but I daren't mention it unless there are photographs still in existence. But there is a serious side to this post and it concerns the current jostle for the financial crusts that our military chiefs are having to go through. After years of Brown's hands on the purse strings they should be used to it by now and there is no light at the end of the tunnel of the general election either, yet we are facing what is arguably one of the most crucial periods of modern times. One of the presentations I had to prepare and present to my syndicate at the end of my month at the College, was about the changing face of low intensity conflicts and how the miltary has to adapt to face them. It was a fairly lengthy piece and included aspects of internal strife facing any number of countries at that time. I cited any number of examples that were either full-on or brewing nicely at that time, including Peru's internal struggle with Sendero Luminoso, The Balkans. various African tribal atrocities and our own on-going problems with PIRA. Kosovo was over 6 years away as was the British intervention in the civil/criminal war/insurgency of Sierra Leone. I can't find the hard copy of my contribution to what was a fascinating month, as it was filed on a WP format I can no longer access, but one thing I do recall was my conclusion where I basically stated that, based on my research and recent anecdotal evidence, the gap between low intensity warfare/insurgency and that of high level criminality/terrorism would become wafer thin. As a result, there would be a greater call for military aid to the civil powers and a ramping up of the capabilities of the civil police to abate the demands for miltary intervention. With more frequent deployments of regular soldiers alongside civil police, the image of the soldier and the police officer would be less discernable and one could forgive the public if they looked at both and failed to tell them apart. At the time I thought I was being just a touch radical, after all it was expected but, eighteen years on, I have no reason to feel that any more.

16 comments:

Blue Eyes said...

Wow interesting post Mr H!

I have always bored people with my view that the post-invasion missions in Iraq and Afghanistan probably look more like policing than war. After all, you can't fight a population into submission, you have to take the heat out and let the dust settle. A bit like in Northern Ireland, probably. Eventually everyone wonders what all the guns and bombs were all about and relative peace prevails.

Hogday said...

Blue: All the really interesting stuff is still on the editors desk.

dickiebo said...

Quite scary!

Hogday said...

Hi Dickiebo. Wot? As scary as the SPG? But then I suppose it wasn't what they were actually capable of, but more about what people believed they were capable of. What the military might put in the `psyops` category.

Blue Eyes said...

Well you can tell me over a pint sometime.

dickiebo said...

I'll drink to that. hic!

Sierra Charlie said...

SPG? Are they the ones in the rather nice hi-viz jackets? How do I get one of those?

Lana Banana said...

you are the ray bradbury of policing. that is, you not only write well, but can also predict what will be . . .

i suspect it's a bit easier for 1st world countries to tell civil police apart from the military, as opposed to poorer countries wherein the military often does double duty.

either way, i'm glad someone's out there doing what you do. lord knows i couldn't.

all i can bear dodging are spitballs.

CI-Roller Dude said...

Caliber matters not...big sticks can hurt. It's all about "pucker factor"

(how tight does something make your -ss pucker shut)
Could be a bullet, bomb or somebody bigger than you pounding is fist into your face as you're laying on your back yelling for you buddies to come help your ass.

Oh, I hope I never have to wear the light blue beret... the UN is a force that has gotten too mired in BS.
Come to think of it, after this year, I'll never wear any type of beret again.

Rock on...

Hogday said...

SC; I feel an SPG tale coming on. I presume you were jesting re the hi-viz boys and girls? ;)

Lana B: Funny how an old pacifist like me ended up working in the areas I did. Even up to a couple of years ago I was surrounded by small arms, albeit I was actually working on the means of keeping them from hurting the good people.

CI RD: I agree to a point that diameter doesn't always count! That said, I still rate the good ole` ACP! Re the blue beret, one of the most slow moving and frustrating of things, to be sure.

Blue Eyes said...

Hogs, there is no contradiction between being an armed Peace Officer and a pacifist.

I've been told on many occasions that it's all about the diameter, but maybe it's different for guns.

H said...

You are just about correct in your conclusions (look at NI), but what can make a difference is whether the army are in aid of the civil power and seen to be subordinate to that power, or are deployed under martial law.

I have worked with the military in both contexts.

In the first context (as you also note) they would find it difficult to accept that they were working in a support role, and couldn't utilise the full range of their "abilities" as they wanted. Nonetheless, in civil emergencies/disasters with no real social unrest evident, they could be very useful indeed as sources of manpower and rescue equipment and emergency medical facilities. They rather liked such deployments as they were excellent PR occasions. However, when dealing with social unrest, we preferred not to use them as "bodies on the ground", but would rather make use of their personnel delivery systems (far safer and a lot speedier than ours) and their communications facilities (far better than what we had).

I do not want to talk much about my experience in working with them in a martial law context, but basically it didn't work (Basra, for example).

And perhaps best not go too closely into current military deployment in support of the civil power within Britain, except to surmise that it is surely already very well established indeed.

The unfortunate bottom line as evinced by your post’s conclusion seems to be that, the British no longer have constabularies which are "of the people" and which are policing “by consent” but now have Forces (or "Services" the actual name matters not one whit) which are “by the government” and which are designed to control the people.

Hogday said...

Blue: Thanks pal. I found that those with `peace in their hearts` made the best tactical firearms officers and were, in turn, excellent peace officers in their ordinary duties.

Hogday said...

H: Thank you very much for taking the time to visit and to add such valuable comments. Your observations very much mirror my own experiences viz I have also worked with military support in a civilian police operation,not for their `muscle` but more for their fantastic secure comms and high speed transport (on my occasion it was high speed RIB's) Their sheer `can do, will do` attitude and skill was just an added bonus. I despair for the current `leadership` style emanating from The Home Office and permeating into the UK's police forces. The police, as well as us public, deserve better. Drop by anytime.
PS. If you were working with police training in Basra a couple of years ago, we may have a mutual friend/acquaintence.

De Campo said...

Great read!

For some reason your post reminded me of the movie La battaglia di Algeri. (yeah, it's French).

I think you would enjoy it.

Hogday said...

Thanks De Campo. It will get me away from "Tales from the Frontline of Afghanistan" for a while. But I can only find the audio cd on Amazon ;(

Maybe I'll try to write up one of the tales from the Army Staff College lecture theatre that won't draw fire from the Ministry of Defence. I'll do a check of Sendero Luminoso first, I'm sure `Google` will know if they're safe to talk about ;)