Police serve and protect communities, protecting people from each other and enforcing the law. They use force when necessary, but they must assume that most people they encounter are friend, not foe, and act accordingly. They almost never use deadly force.
Soldiers attack and defend against foreign enemies. They operate in war zones where civilians may be present, but where many people they encounter are dangerous enemies. They regularly use deadly force when they encounter the enemy.
Over the last decade, policymakers in the United States have blurred the line between these two groups. Soldiers have been used as police forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, causing innocent civilians to be killed and turning an entire society into a war zone, when perhaps a subtler police force would have been more effective. At the same time, police departments at home have increasingly learned and employed military tactics, and become increasingly suspicious of the populations that they are meant to serve, as if they were an enemy force to be fought.
Both police and soldiers have their place in a modern democracy, but we should be more careful not to mix the two. We should be less willing to employ military tactics at home through police forces, as this undermines respect for and trust in our police officers. We should avoid asking our soldiers to serve as police, as their training and offensive posture make it difficult for them to establish a friendly and helpful relationship with a community.
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