What if?

Sometimes the best questions come from the most innocent of minds and usually those questions have the most complex, yet obvious, answers. Such was the case earlier today after an interaction with a pseudo-homeless man who had some degree of apparent metal retardation but not severe enough to make him dangerous, at least not in his current state of mind. Rather than a request for money or even food, he reported that he had run away from a half-way house and the local MRDD center had gotten word to him that he must report there before 2pm to avoid being in trouble. An odd introduction, particularly to a retired cop.It was almost 1330 and he would need to walk at least a mile and half to get to the center; the sun was belting out a wonderful June brightness in 90 degree heat, so I acquiesced to a ride; since I was comfortably carrying under the Federal Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act just in case his mood changed. Our interchange during the short ride was pleasant though bordering on the odd (after nearly forty years in some kind of law enforcement related field my definition of ‘odd’ is a bit harder to reach than some.) I did learn that there were a couple of stores along our route into which he was not permitted to go and he hinted that certain authority figures might be looking for him. (Naturally after I dropped him off, within a block or two I saw a local cop and told him of our new friend’s whereabouts)

All of this to share with you a question posed to me by my grandson, age six, later the same day having learned of the adventure in which I had found myself. It became a three-part question but began:

“What if all of the policemen were gone and there were only people (like this man I described) and ‘bad people’?” He then broadened the scope, “What if there were no policemen or no army men to protect us?” And finally, “What if there were no policemen, army men or dads and moms to protect us?”

He came up with his own answer almost immediately. “The ‘bad guys’ would have all the guns and they would do whatever they want to us, especially us little kids.”

What a great segue into the article I have written that, thanks to the great editorial work of Chris Graham, will find itself gracing the cover of the next issue of The Counter Terrorist magazine.My article takes a bit of a different tack on ‘protecting’ the public by police and army personnel as I trust you will read in my article. That is where the complexity of my grandson’s question comes in. It cannot be, in a society such as ours, the responsibility of the police and military to protect us except in the large sense of keeping al Qaeda pinned down somewhere in Afghanistan so they cannot control more than they do. But from an individual standpoint, officers respond to crime after the event so their responsibility must lay in teaching citizens how to avoid crime and to defend themselves against a would-be attacker.

The simplicity of the answer, though, to my grandson’s question, and absolutely correct was he in his analysis of the results should the ‘thin blue line’ be erased. There would be anarchy. Regardless of one’s choice either of the’ big picture protection’ where the police and military keep the bad guys on their side of the street or their responsibility to provide the citizens what they need in order to protect themselves; the result is the same. “The bad guys would have all the guns and they would do whatever they want to us, especially us little kids.”

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