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  • Skyla Jewell-Hammie

Could the Military-to-Police Cycle Play a Role in High Rates of Police Brutality Cases?

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In late 2020, the nation saw as Black and brown people were consistently berated by certain law enforcement, and the heartbreak of living through death became all too much.

The tragic death of Geroge Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, and many more, shook the nation to the realization: Black and brown people are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement and the entire judicial system.

In many of these cases, the police shot first without asking questions, or they did not have enough training to handle someone who was going through a mental health crisis.

It begs the question: what are the training and the qualifications to be a respected police officer? Do ex-military men moving onto the police force experience heightened aggression, and more cases of acting through “trigger happiness?”

Studies show that the call for demilitarizing police means “disrupting the army-to-police pipeline.” That might be a problem for the United States, where one-fifth of the police force is ex-military.

For example, the Dallas Police Department reported having more ex-military officers who discharged their firearm while on duty rather than officers with zero military experience, according to The Marshall Project.

According to researchers at the University of Texas School of Public Health Dallas, regardless of cops’ deployment history, cops who were military veterans were more likely to be involved in shooting incidents.

According to a study made by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) along other judicial leaders across the country in September 2009, many ex-military who become cops believe that they bring the necessary positive skills for the profession: leadership, physical fitness, and discipline.

Although they see moving onto the police force as a positive idea, negative mindsets can subconsciously occur. For example, ex-military cops might reserve a power complex that can result in trust issues, and being able to receive rather than give orders.

Depression, anger management, family issues, and withdrawal play a role in how tolerant an ex-military individual can be towards citizen complaints, according to the report by the IACP. Furthermore, some departments have transition programs to aid the certain mental and physical effects of the military, but others also stay conflicted on approaching the hidden issues.

The report often judges that many ex-military cops don't have much control over their aggression or trauma from the military, and it directly affected how they handle civilian complaints and altercations.

This could largely explain the overall lack of psycho-evaluating the police force.

The report recommends that communication and specialized training is of the utmost importance within the first 30–60 days an individual leaves the military.

Before rushing the process of going into the police force, departments across the country should allow the veteran officer to commit to a ride-along or shadow a college who has been on the job regularly, according to the IACP.

Although being diagnosed with PTSD and other mental health issues can be debilitating, it does not determine whether or not an individual can become a part of the police force unless severe it's a severe crisis.

The information found from the IACP was eventually developed into two guidebooks — one for veteran officers and one for law enforcement leaders, but this project from the IACP is certainly not the last, and should not be. The call for correct training and support for veterans should be common sense to uphold.

Within six to nine months of a veteran returning to the police force, there should be an establishment of positive and constructive peer/family support groups. Without the comprehensive care plan made by people surrounding the veteran, the structure of engagement and training within the police force will be harder to transition into (IACP).

Along with support, updating officers on current and changed procedures, laws, equipment, and technology is hugely important in dismantling aggression in ex-military cops. Veteran officers should not be rushed into the field automatically without specialized training catered to their history and needs.

To learn more about the extensive research going into dismantling militarization of police officers, and background on employing returning combat veterans, look into the IACP report/guidebook.


“Shaping the Future of the Policing Profession.” International Association of Chiefs of Police, 19 Feb. 2021,

Suzanne Gordon Steve Early, et al. “Demilitarization of Police Means Disrupting the Army-to-Police Pipeline.” Jacobin,

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