If patrolling US soldiers can avoid shooting civilians, why can't US cops stop murdering unarmed black men?

David French served as squadron judge advocate for the Second Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment, stationed at Forward Operating Base Caldwell in Diyala Province, Iraq; he walked patrol with other soldiers, during which he and his colleagues confronted routine armed aggression from insurgents out of uniform, who used IEDs as well as firearms in their fights with US soldiers.

During his entire deployment, amid hundreds of firefights, French's unit killed two civilians: "one to small-arms fire and one to a wayward artillery shell."

So French has a question: how is it that US soldiers stationed in hostile territory — where enemy forces mingle with civilians, where the soldiers and the civilians don't even share a common language — are able to avoid killing civilians, while US police officers — whose on-the-job mortality is far lower than HVAC repairers and construction workers — shoot unarmed civilians, especially black people, all the goddamned time?

French is responding to "Jack Dunphy," the pseudonym used by a retired LAPD officer who says the cops just can't be blamed for murdering unarmed black people.

A person can be concerned about officer safety and realize the truth that officer safety isn't the mission. A person can believe blue lives matter and understand that accepting sometimes extraordinary risk is part of the job. A person can support the police and still demand a very high level of tactical and strategic awareness even from the youngest officers. To put them on the street is to declare to the public that they are up to the job.

The legal bar for successful prosecution of an officer is appropriately high. We should not send a cop to jail if he makes the snap judgment to fire his weapon while reasonably fearing death or serious bodily injury. But I'm concerned that juries are too willing to excuse fear in the absence of reason, and I'm concerned that our bar for training, competence, and courage is often too low.

Men in uniform inspire respect not because of the uniform itself but because of what the uniform is supposed to represent. It's supposed to represent not just a commitment to selfless sacrifice but also a commitment to excellence. Countless cops exhibit those very characteristics. Too many others do not. In the face of this reality, the least we can ask is that cops show as much discipline as soldiers at war.

Stephon Clark Shooting: Cops More Aggressive Than Soldiers [David French/National Review]

(Image: Jamelle Bouie, CC-BY)