In recent years there has been a growing concern over the militarization of local policing and a warrior-like image. This has been a product of the failed war on drugs, the war on gangs, the war on terrorism and what people view in TV cop dramas, in popular movies and the news media. Beyond the worn-out war metaphor, the 1033 program, in which local police can receive surplus military equipment from the Department of Defense for use in their agencies, has raised eyebrows and focused attention on this image, be it real or perceived.

Police training academies that resemble military boot camps have also received criticism as contributing factors in the warrior-like persona of local police. Much of which you find in these stress-based training academies is antithetical to the philosophy of community-oriented policing and has little or nothing to do with the reality of day-to-day policing.

Warriors, those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who safeguard our shores from foreign enemies, are an indispensable fighting force protecting us from those in the world who threaten our way of life. Their role is predicated on the use of force and violence against our nation’s enemies.

Our local police are our guardians, charged with a much broader role in our society. Having taken an oath to observe and defend the Constitution, the glue that holds our society together, they are the guardians of our individual liberties and freedoms. And yes, unfortunately, on occasion they must use physical force, and sometimes deadly force, to protect themselves and the citizens they guard.

Unlike a warrior, our police officers do not have a clearly defined enemy to seek out and destroy while accepting collateral damage as a cost of prosecuting a war. Their role as guardians is much more complex. When they are called on to use force, collateral damage is unacceptable. Much of what they are tasked to do is more service-oriented in addition to taking measures to prevent crime and public disorder.

Of course, we must not lose sight of the fact that a critical part of an officer’s duty to protect is to respond to and investigate crimes, bringing the offenders to justice. However, even that is not the act of a warrior, but that of a guardian protecting the community from the predators within.

Over two decades ago, progressive leaders in the field of policing began to adopt the community oriented policing philosophy. As the movement grew, the policing principles of Sir Robert Peel, founder of the London Metropolitan Police Service in 1829, were embraced. Those principles centered on the role of a guardian, maintaining public trust, crime prevention and order maintenance, seeking voluntary compliance with the law, impartiality, a minimal use of force by police and success being measured not in the number of arrests but the absence of crime and disorder.

Peel founded London’s police service after a period of inadequate policing, rising crime, public disorder, riots and the overreaction of the military in maintaining order, which prompted the passage of England’s Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 calling for a new civilian police force.

From its inception, the police service was clearly differentiated from the military in order to gain the public’s trust. A centralized professional police force was not a popular idea and was met with resistance. Fear that an organized central police force would become another branch of the military, an occupying force, was paramount. To overcome this fear, in addition to adherence to Peel’s Principles, a clear distinction between police and the military was exemplified in the uniforms they wore, the prohibition against officers carrying firearms and the emphasis on maintaining the public’s trust.

American policing, having been modeled after the London Metropolitan Police Service, is rooted in a philosophy of police officers as guardians, not warriors. The evolution of policing in America has been somewhat different, however. Officers carry firearms, policing is less centralized, and as of late a warrior-like subculture has emerged that threatens the nature of policing in a free society.

The cop on the beat is not a warrior, an occupying force in an alien land, but a guardian protecting and serving a community, the community in which he or she is a trusted member, a trusted guardian of our democracy.

Karl Bickel is retired from the Department of Justice and has been a major city police officer, assistant professor and second in command of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office. He writes from Monrovia.

(43) comments


I say that Sheriff Jenkins has been doing a great job. This year he has enthusiastically participated in the county-wide and multi-agency war on opiod addiction. He continues to be a strong leader of a great organization. I understand that many people disagree with his politics, particularly on immigration, and that's fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. My opinion is that Sheriff Jenkins is doing a great job.



- Any word on any viable candidates for Sheriff for the upcoming Frederick County election?

- I see pictures of Sheriff Jenkins in the paper from time to time. He's aged considerably, and appears not in the best of physical condition. (just stating an observation). If a younger, aggressive, candidate came along, I don't think Jenkins has the physical stamina to put up a fight.

- I feel the low pay for Sheriff is deterring the right people from running for the seat.


Stay tuned. You will see something in January.


Some of our society has zero regard for human life. I'm not a police officer and I recognize this. How bout the Baltimore cop recently killed? Was it a Baltimore thug? Or was it one of his own because he was scheduled to testify against fellow officers the next day? Regardless, someone killed him. No regard for human life.


I meant retired from everything you list- sorry.


I don't mean to be a gadfly, I'm just curious about that touted "professional resume." Are you retired now? Since when?


Assistant Professor usually denotes you have a Ph.D. and you are on tenure track. Where was that Mr. Bickel?


Actually lots of people are professors without PhDs, particularly those with extensive experience in the field. Ex politicians and such, for instance


Yes,they are adjuncts. You usually read more carefully. Assistant professorships are reserved for those who have chosen the field as a career- not as a side-light or semi-retired position. They have Ph.D.s and are tenure track. I suspect Mr. Bickel meant to write Adjunct which is fine, just different.


I was a full time assistant professor and criminal justice program coordinator at Allegany College and have served on the adjunct faculties at American University and Montgomery College in the past.


They are also not salaried shift, they are paid on a per-course basis,no benefits, pension, etc., For all of it Liberalism, academia is one of the most exploiting employers one can find. Particularly adjuncts and graduate assistants. But I think you know that.


Thanks Mr. Bickel. Whenever did you find the time?


Des21, finding the time took many years. My experience spans over 40 years and here is a thumbnail sketch.
• Police cadet, police officer in patrol & special operations and detective in criminal investigations Washington, DC Metropolitan Police
• Private investigator (VP of Operations) & security consulting Mitchel Reports Investigations
• Law enforcement specialist, National Institute of Justice, National Criminal Justice Reference Service
• Assistant Professor & CJ program coordinator, Alegheny College, Adjunct faculty member American University, Montgomery College
• Chief of law enforcement operations (second in command) Frederik County Sheriff’s Office
• Assessor & assessment team leader Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies
• Law enforcement consultant and investigator (classified personnel investigations for federal intelligence gathering agency)
• Information services coordinator Community Policing Consortium
• Senior policy analysist, US Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
Over the years I served on the following volunteer boards and commissions
• Substance Abuse Advisory Council (Frederick County)
• Human Relations Commission (Frederick County)
• Ethics Commission (Frederick County)
• County Executive’s Ethics Task Force (Frederick County)
• Montgomery College Criminal Justice Advisory Board
• Alegheny College Criminal Justice Advisory Board
• Criminal Justice Program Advisory Committee, Montgomery County Public Schools
• Tech/Prep Security Services Advisory Board, Frederick County Public Schools
I am currently retired and serve on five boards of directors. Thank you for your interest and comments.


des; a quick look at the Mount St Mary's faculty shows Master's level professors in some departments. And I agree that academia has a poor record of support for faculty (the tenure system is broken, IMHO) but I disagree that they are liberal. That is a right-wing perspective of a few departments, not the administration or the university system as a whole.


I was an assistant professor and criminal justice program coordinator at Allegany College in Western Maryland when a former sheriff asked me to come and work for him in Frederick County. No PhD.


I believe that is Associate professor.


Thank you Karl. I wish we could get back to community policing instead of “wars” against ourselves. Great column.


One of the feelings I got when reading the article, is that it is a thinly disguised criticism of Sheriff Jenkins. What I wonder is what is Sheriff Jenkins to do differently? The police have to do what they do to enforce the law.


Sue 1955 The column is a general statement about law enforcement and an issue that has become a topic of interest. If you see anything that relates to the sheriff it is strictly in the eye of the beholder.


Right. Including killing a kid who wants to watch a movie again. Had to be done.


"Beyond the worn-out war metaphor, the 1033 program, in which local police can receive surplus military equipment from the Department of Defense for use in their agencies, has raised eyebrows and focused attention on this image, be it real or perceived."

Karl, our Sheriff's department has an armored vehicle; they show it in parades. What is this for and how will it be used? It seems like it should be used against mass forces, which is not likely in Frederick. And if it were likely, it would be the City of Frederick; not the County needing it.

The Sheriff Department's budget is set by the County. Was this approved by the County? If so, what was the reasoning and logic behind such a purchase?


I believe the “warrior mentality” had its beginnings in the mid-60’s. Back in the day it was not uncommon to have your local police out-numbered and out-gunned by local society. In the 60’s and 70’s Cops were viewed as a part of the problem, not part of the solution. So as cities and municipalities grew beat cops were taken off the street, doubled –up and put in cruisers out of fear for their safety and cover more territory. When civil unrest happened, the Governor would call in the National Guard. What has happened and is occurring now is the firepower and might of the National Guard is being transferred to local police agencies. Through the decade’s local police have adapted to the changing behavior, anger and expectations of society. Local Police agencies are expected to handle all situations without the need of the “military” on the street. However the anger of society is out-pacing the police. The manhunt for the Boston bomber is an example, the force shown on the streets of Watertown was a Police style “military operation”. Police agencies are equipped and trained just like the military with a side of community relations for good measure for the worst-case scenario which unfortunately, is becoming more frequent. How is the local police supposed react to a person with dozens of rifles on the 32nd floor of a Hotel? The police are still out-gunned.


Well said, tea. And, spot-on, jersey.


Is this an attack on the second amendment? Why shouldn’t citizenry have the right to as many guns as they want?


Sounds like Karl hasn't been out and about on the streets in quite awhile, some of those "foreign enemies" that he talks about are actually on our streets ...and we see the affects almost daily...need to get real!


jerseygrl, I don't know where or when you are out and about or what you are afraid of since you never come out and say what you really mean but I would say to you that Frederick City and County are very safe, especially if you keep regular hours. My wife and I shop regularly on the Golden Mile, her favorite store is Boscov's, and I see many seemingly average citizens doing the same. I have never encountered a ms13 gang or seen any gang graffiti around town. Yes, there is crime in Frederick as there is everywhere, but on a daily basis? Stop listening to the fear-mongering of our County Sheriff.


I agree 100% phy, the Chief and Sheriff do a great job with crime! The City and County are safe.




She's talking about the dream world she lives in where a crackhead or a terrorist could come knocking down her door at any minute [lol]


Agree. But what to do about some situations that require hypervigilance, as in, being suddenly overwhelmed or under siege, and turning that off the rest of the time? Can police segue from strollin' along to catlike reflexes on demand, in response to a sudden or unexpected threat? There seems to be some indication that that is assumed to beyond human ability, which is where militarization fills the gap. Some cities do have "war zone" ambience neighborhoods. But seeing police always prepared for that, even showing off their over-the-top capabilities, is offputting. One might even wonder what kind of police candidate this attracts.


Dwasserba Thank you very much and you make some excellent points. It is not easy. It boils down to leadership that values excellence in recruiting, hiring, policy development, training and supervision. I believe that it is within human capability and that many of if not most police officers are already there. Most do an amazing job given the complexity of the work they do.


Aw yes, Karl's usual sentiment of police should only use rainbows and hugs to combat violent criminals. Karl's so far from the reality of today's policing and problems. Guess that's what happens when you never really worked the street.


gdunn, it is your attitude that is the problem. That is not at all what this letter says. One needs only to read the story of the kid at the movie theater to know that policing is sometimes/oftentimes too focused on confrontation when it doesn't need to be.


Dave Dunn, is the one that commented that MS-13 originated in El Salvador. Which is not the case.




gdunn you frequently criticize that which I have to say without providing any substantive argument countering the points I have made. I would be happy to sit down over a cup of coffee and provide a fuller explanation on my points and provide an overview of my time as a street cop in the inner city of Washington, DC, in patrol, special operations and criminal investigations. My email is at the end of the column. Feel free to contact me and set something up. Looking forward to hearing from you.


What a great response, Mr. Bickel.[thumbup]


Remembering the good and bad times in a place called "Simple City". Relax people ,that is what it was called by the residents who lived there in the 80's and 90's. But with a good Mayor, Police and Community involvement working together for a common goal, good things did come to Simple City however it still could get better.


gd, do you know Karl's professional resume'? If you did, you would never make this statement!


gdunn - your response is very condesending and has nothing to back it up in terms of facts or reasoning. Again, a silly post aimed at nothing. Perhaps a reading comprehension refresher is needed to actually get the point of the article.


David Dunn, Your boy Jenkins never "worked a street", either.

Also, since when did any of the FCSO deputies "work a street"? Are you confusing Fred county with Baltimore and DC?


This is my nomination for best opinion piece of the year. I hope it is widely read, particularly by the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, who seemed overly eager to use violence as a first line method of dealing with any and all situations.


I completely agree!

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