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Here’s a good puzzler, or guessing game for the Fourth of July:

How many people currently serve on active duty in the United States Army? Write down your best guess.

How many full-time law enforcement officers currently serve in the United States? Likewise, write down your estimate.

Now compare both numbers, and make adjustments if necessary, to account for where you expect the two numbers to lie, relative to each other. Which number do you expect to be larger? By how much? Half again as large? Twice as large? Write down your new estimates, if you make adjustments.

All set? Happy with your figures? Based on 2018 data from Statista, here are actual numbers:

Active duty Army personnel: 471,990

Full-time law enforcement: 686,665

That makes law enforcement almost half again as large as the Army. 686,665 divided by 471,990 equals 1.45.

Now think past these numbers. For years, police departments across the country have bought into the idea of warrior cops. They send police academy candidates to rigorous boot camps. Police culture stresses aggressiveness, the need to regard every situation as potentially deadly. That means kill or be killed out on our dark city streets. Use as much force as necessary, and then some.

On the other side, the Army often fills a policing role. We send soldiers to other parts of the world to keep the peace, garrison a strategic base, assist in state building, protect U. S. civilian and military assets. They have become quite good at these roles. They have had a lot of practice over the years. They know how to make decisions about use of force, based on threat assessments, mission goals, and their country’s interests.

We also know the army has a difficult time recruiting enough soldiers, and that the military is one of the most trusted institutions in our unhappy country. Why don’t we bring our soldiers home, to keep peace in our troubled cities, and send law enforcement officers overseas to play out their brutal fantasies in war zones? Domestic law enforcement might become effective again, and the army would solve its recruiting problem. Moreover, each force could make better use of its training in its new role.

We might have peace officers here at home who actually serve and protect us. Overseas, well, who can say what will happen overseas?

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