Thinking About the Police
by James Glaser
August 25, 2015
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I was in the Marines in Vietnam in 1968-69. The tour of duty was for 13 months and everyone was given about a week off to I guess try and get their mind working again.

All US military personnel serving in Vietnam during hostilities there were eligible for one R&R during their tour of duty (13 months for marines, 12 months for soldiers, sailors, airmen). The duration of R&R was five days leave to R&R destinations: Bangkok; Hong Kong; Kuala Lampur/Penang; Manila; Singapore; Taipei; Tokyo. Due to their greater distance, seven days leave was permitted for R&R destinations Hawaii and Sydney. Bangkok was reportedly most popular with single GIs, Hawaii most popular with married GIs planning to holiday with spouses.

The government knew that a person sent into combat can only take it so long and even with that week off, that combat tour was too much for hundreds of thousands who came home with a life- time of posttraumatic stress.

So, that made me think about our country's police forces. In some places being a policeman is not a constant stress-filled job, but in other places, like big cities, hitting the streets every day in uniform with you pistol on your hip, your shotgun in the squad car, carrying pepper spray, a taser, and handcuffs, you must feel as though you are in the combat zone. Now it is not unusual so see a police officer wearing a bullet proof vest, and on some occasions a helmet.

I can imagine what it is like walking up to a car with dark tinted windows at two o'clock in the morning in a bad neighborhood for somebody driving erratically. I bet it is a lot like walking into a Vietnamese village where shots have been fired at your unit. Yes, I know it isn't the same thing, but the adrenaline hitting is the same, as is the fear of the unknown.

If a policeman or policewoman has this kind of duty night after night, month after month and year after year, the stress has to become unbearable.

One thing I learned in the Marine Corps in Vietnam—if a guy in your unit was showing signs of being too stressed-out you would go to your superiors and tell them to take a look. They might or might not do anything about the guy, but they at least knew they should keep an eye on the guy for not only his wellbeing, but the wellbeing of the whole unit, and when they decided he was a danger to himself or others they not only got him help, but also they got him out of there.

So many times I read about police here in the US that are on the news for using excessive force or for killing somebody, only to find out they had had that problem before, sometimes many times before. Some have been let go by other police units only to take the same kind of stressful job with a different police department.

It seems as though police units here at home are not looking out for the wellbeing of their fellow officers and will look the other way or even lie to keep those in charge from knowing the problem officers they know about. That endangers not only that troubled officer, but other officers and the public.

I have to tell you, I respect the job the police do for us, but now I have questions. Is that policeman following me one of those stressed out crazy ones who should have been put behind a desk long before now, and will I be able to not say the "word" that will put him or her out of control? Really, today every encounter with a policeman is a chance of being beaten or killed.

Policemen are talking about a lack of respect for the job they do, but for many Americans the police have become something to fear, not respect. A policeman or a police department can want to be respected or they can even demand they be respected, but it doesn't work that way. Respect is something you earn, and it is given for a job well done. People never respect those they fear, and I believe today's American police force has become something many of us fear or are at least are apprehensive of, and they are going to have to work hard to earn back the respect they at one time had.

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