FOREFRONT: Think like Soldiers, Act like Cops


Times have changed and law enforcement needs to see the implications of terrorism.
By James L (Jimmy) Smith

American law enforcement officers, from the smallest to the largest agency, should be on guard for acts of terror committed by radical Islamic Terrorists. These terrorists may be from a Middle Eastern country, or from Middle America. While political solutions are out of law enforcement’s control, preventing and responding to terrorist attacks fall squarely on the shoulders of American Law Enforcement. National Security Policy is not in the purview of law enforcement, but failed national policies directly impact state and local law enforcement operations. Politicians, military officials and a host of other experts on terrorism predict it is only a matter of time before multiple attacks that dwarf those of 9/11/01 are launched, and the question must be asked: Is American Law Enforcement prepared?

Islamist terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are not hampered by budgets that restrict, or even eliminate training. This was made very clear in 2002 when a copy of the Al-Qaeda training manual was discovered in the United Kingdom. This manual does not teach report writing, ethics, or criminal law; it teaches how to kidnap, kill, and terrorize. While all Islamist terrorist organizations may not necessarily use this manual, it certainly establishes a baseline for other Islamist terrorist organizations to emulate in their own training camps.

In reality, they train to kill all non-believers, without prejudice, not just soldiers or law enforcement officers, but all non-combatants, men women, and children. These reality-based tactics (RBT) will be devastating if any attack on our Homeland occurs for two reasons: State and local law enforcement officers are trained to arrest with the intent of bringing the offender before a court of law and second, the Constitution requires that law enforcement officers have a solemn duty to protect civil rights. Police officers therefore use liability-based tactics (LBT). In short, Islamist terrorists using RBT have but one rule: kill or be killed, while law enforcement is constitutionally bound to arrest and prosecute.

Such was the case in 2008 in Mumbai, India where members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist terrorist group, launched 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across the city of Mumbai, killing 164 people and wounding at least 308. Lashkar-e-Taiba utilized Fourth Generation Warfare Tactics (4GW), which are generally characterized by a blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians. The RBT employed in this case introduced the world to swarming tactics and the effectiveness of targeting the first, second, and third responders.

Imagine an Islamist terrorist group simultaneously attacking with the use of Mumbai Style tactics at a professional football game on a bright, clear Sunday, when literally thousands of fans are in the parking lot tailgating before the game. Before the attacks, they prepositioned Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and during the attacks they use swarming tactics.

Then imagine a protracted attack lasting for a day, not four, as was the case in Mumbai. Is any American Law Enforcement Agency ready for such multiple attacks?

As individual officers, have you taken the time to acquaint yourself with the tactics associated with 4GW, or asymmetrical warfare tactics? If these tactics sound foreign, they should. Law enforcement officers are not on the whole granted extraordinary powers to fight wars by the citizens who appoint them. They are conservators of the peace, bound by substantive criminal laws and case laws to operate within constitutional restraints.

However, those operating procedures do not preclude law enforcement officers from gaining greater knowledge of military-style tactics. For a start, Google fourth-generation warfare, Mumbai attacks, or the Al-Qaeda Training Manual, then read and digest the tactics used, then begin to strategize how to counter the attacks, using LBT. Law enforcement officers as a matter of officer safety need to think like soldiers if confronted by a terrorist attack, and predetermining tactical strategies that afford the average law enforcement officer the abilities to determine the RBT being employed is essential at the onset of the attack.

It has been politically expedient to demonize the militarization of law enforcement in recent months; however, it is state and local law enforcement officers who will answer the call to protect their communities from terror and they must understand the tactics and they must be equipped to handle a prolonged criminal assault on their communities, albeit IEDs or ground swarm attacks.

There has not been a political solution to the crisis on the Southern Border of the United States, again, not a law enforcement problem; however, the problems associated with illegal immigration along with a reported high number of arrested Illegals being classified as “Other Than Mexican” (OTM) should be alarming to all state and local law enforcement agencies.

While no hard numbers of OTMs is available, there have been several media reports over the past few years that have mentioned members of Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Iranian Quds Force have been using the lawless area in South America where the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay meet—known as the tri-border area (TBA)—to run criminal rackets and funnel the profits back to the Middle East.

More recently, some media outlets have reported Jihadist terrorist training camps in Venezuela and that at least some terror organizations have aligned themselves with Mexican Drug Cartels who operate just across the Texas border in Juarez, Mexico. While the political debates have continued, there can be little doubt that an unknown number of terrorists are hiding in plain sight in various locations throughout the country. They may be hardcore members of the Iranian Quds Force, or homegrown lone-wolf Jihadists, but they are here planning and plotting acts of terror on American citizens.

Starting in August of 2014, the world has been introduced to the barbarism of ISIS, who beheaded two American journalists they had taken hostage. On Sept. 25, at the beginning of the dinner hour, Americans were horrified by the breaking news that a self-proclaimed Jihadist, an American, entered a business from which he had been terminated, and savagely beheaded a woman, then attempted to do the same to another in Moore, Okla., not in Syria, or Iraq, but in Oklahoma.

Mark Vaughn, a Reserve Oklahoma County Deputy, and Chief Operating Officer of the Company, according to his Sheriff, retrieved his vest, and a firearm, then used his training, and confronted this psychopathic killer, severely wounding him and stopping the barbaric attack on the second female victim. Deputy Vaughn, who is not a full-time officer, was prepared, assessed and understood what tactics he had to employ. He thought like a Soldier, and acted like a cop.

The time has come for all law enforcement officers to realize that the idea that politics are so far removed from the jobs of the average street cop, that politics should be of no concern to them in their community is no longer realistic. In reality, national political policies of any Presidential administration, or the policy debates and posturing of the Congress have major implications when it comes to officer safety.

The fallout from bad security and defense policy on the national and international levels affects every American. State and local law enforcement officers are the last line of defense when these policies fail to provide adequate protections to local communities. Illegal immigration through porous borders have lead an unknown number or foreign fighters, Jihadists, and drug cartels to infiltrate American communities, and by taking advantage of the freedoms we all enjoy, they have secreted themselves while preparing to strike our homeland from within.

Law enforcement officers are not at war with people they serve; however, they must be prepared to go to war with the criminal elements of society, whether their motives are greed, power, or religious fanaticism. It does not make a difference whether officers wear BDUs or Class A uniforms, drive military vehicles, or smart cars, carry Glocks with high-capacity magazines, or six-shot model 10s. What does make the difference is the warrior spirit each officer should have, coupled with the ability to understand how 4GW tactics can be used against them, how they seek out training to better themselves, and gain a greater understanding of what they might face.

Finally, if they do face terrorism head-on, they need to think like a soldier and have a deep understanding of the military-style tactics or RBT that may be used against them and how to counter those tactics, by acting like a cop and ensuring those tactics protect them, their communities, and the liberties of American citizens. PM
Jim Smith is a 40-year law enforcement veteran and an ILEETA Charter/Advisory Board member. Currently he is a Railroad Special Agent. He is an active trainer and author and has a BS in Criminal Justice/Communication and an MA in Homeland Security Studies.


  1. Trung Nguyen, former U.S. Army Ranger and current full-time police officer. Still thinking like a soldier and acting like a cop.
  2. Police officers used liability-based tactics (LBT) while soldiers must react to reality-based tactics (RBT).

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