And… Are Cops Warriors Or Peace Officers?
By Massad Ayoob
I was a 20-something patrolman when I shot the Second Chance match for the first time. Richard Davis, the inventor of Second Chance Body Armor, had created the prize-rich shooting event as a thank-you for the cops who had purchased his product. At each event there would be “Second Chance Saves,” men and women who had stopped bullets with something better than their own internal organs. You can read about some of them in this month’s Ayoob Files here in American Handgunner.
Back in the 1970’s, the service revolver still ruled the police armory. Illinois State Police were the only troopers in the country carrying autoloaders (9mm S&W Model 39’s). When cops felt undergunned with their 6-shot .38’s, they begged their chiefs to at least authorize .357 Magnums, because they knew in most agencies there was no hope of being allowed “automatics.”
The very first of these shoots were limited to cops, but Richard — an armed citizen whose incentive to create body armor had come from his own successful shootout with a trio of armed robbers — soon opened it to law-abiding citizens such as himself. It was a great opportunity for those natural allies, armed citizens and cops, to interact with one another. And, to no one’s great surprise — at least then — it worked out remarkably well.
One police pistol spanning the time periods in question is the 1911 .45, still “
the gun to beat” at most pin matches. This Colt Government was customized
by Mark Morris, a regular at Davis’ match.
Peace Officer, LEO Or “Warrior-Cop”?
I and more than one generation who’ve been both armed citizen and cop have been caught up in changing attitudes. There has always been a segment of society who hated police and the governmental agencies they served. When Davis’ match began, “police brutality” was already a buzzword in the media. Today we hear the Radley Balko meme, “Warrior Cop.” Plus ça change, plus c´ est même chose. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
The “warrior cop” trope came somewhat from police trainers themselves. Circa 1970, the officer survival training movement arose after incidents such as the murder of four Highway Patrolmen by two vicious ex-cons in Newhall, California. Evan Marshall, when he was a columnist for American Handgunner in its early years, was a Detroit cop and gunfight veteran who coined the term “street survival,” which later became a book and seminar title for the still extant, and still very much useful, Calibre Press police training entity. The term “war on crime” had probably predated all of us still alive to read this, and since the cops were the citizens’ designated fighters in that war, by definition “warrior” was indeed an appropriate term.
Today we hear many asking, “Why don’t we have peace officers anymore, instead of law enforcement officers?” The question reeks of naiveté and lack of research. The cops can’t preserve the peace if they don’t have the power to arrest those who disturb it, which means they must, by definition, be empowered to enforce the law. If our brother-in-law is beating our sister, do we not want the police to be able to lock him up? And please, don’t call the law enforcement officers “tax collectors;” a child would know if you don’t give the cops the money for your fine, they’re not collecting anything. They are empowered to enforce the law for but one reason: to preserve the peace of the community.
Typical police handguns, then and now: 6-shot S&W Model 19 .357 Combat Magnum
and 18-shot GLOCK 17 9mm with Streamlight TLR-2 light/laser.
Peace Officer or Law Enforcement Officer? Yin and yang. They can’t be either without being the other. Many a police officer — my departed, legendary friend “Skeeter” Skelton among them — has owed his or her life to the timely intervention of a citizen. And countless citizens owe their lives to the timely intervention of someone whose badge marks them as a peace officer, a law enforcement officer, and yes, society’s designated “warrior-cop” in the long-standing “war against crime.”
Richard Davis’ iconic shooting match, now known as “The Armor Express Pin Shoot” or simply “The Shoot,” will resume again June 9–17, 2017. Information will be available at www.pinshoot.com. I predict we will again see a most pleasant mingling of those two natural allies, the law-abiding armed citizens and the sworn police officers. I hope to see you there. If you’re an armed citizen who doesn’t know a cop who respects the Second Amendment, or if you’re a burned out cop who doesn’t trust armed citizens, I’ll be happy to introduce you to one or more like-minded counterparts “from that other world.”