Full disclosure: I am one of them. Or I was one of them, to be more accurate. I’m retired now, so I spend my days watching the lawn grow and pondering various “what-ifs”. One of these gedankenexperiments is: “What if the wheels come off the wagon and the police are no longer guardians of peace. What would the police do if they became hungry and angry, just like the masses.” My wife thinks I should get a hobby, to which I answer I already have one: prepping.
For 27 years I worked in law enforcement for several agencies. Most of my career was spent at the federal level, but not all. I worked in the pacific northwest, the coastal south, and the upper Midwest. I worked in both rural areas and major population centers. I traveled internationally as part of my job and observed how my counterparts operate in Thailand and South Africa. I base the following perspectives on the totality of my experiences- the training, the personal relationships, and basic knowledge of how law enforcement (LE) operates.
I attended five police academies – nearly two years of my adult life were spent in formal training environments. Most smart people in law enforcement only attend one, maybe two academies but ambition, restlessness, or frustration propelled me to jump ship to different agencies several times. I spent the first third of my career as a uniformed patrol officer and the remainder as an investigator, in both covert and overt capacities. I was a firearms instructor for many years and continue in this role on a part-time basis in retirement. I mention this history so you understand how my background influences my thinking.
The following is my personal opinion and nothing more. I represent no agency nor ever will again.
Let’s imagine a scenario where daily norms have taken a sudden turn for the worse. The power grid becomes unreliable, supply chains are stressed, the threat of civil war looms on the horizon, foreign adversaries become more menacing in their threats and actions, the cost of food increases 3% every month, health care systems are overwhelmed and criminals are exploiting gaps in public safety due to defunded and demoralized police. Just a couple of years ago, all of this would’ve seemed awfully far-fetched, right? But how about now?
So what happens to the police when the crashing waves get bigger and bigger until the castle of sand we know as society washes into the sea? How should a prepper approach both planning and the actuality of limited police, no police, or even illegitimate police?
Disclaimer: I worked with hundreds of LEOs during my career and can attest the vast majority are honest, dedicated, and professional. Many, like myself, were drawn to the career to be part of something larger than themselves and to make the world a better place. However, there was a basic unwritten social contract in place: the community-supported police by providing salary and benefits, prosecutors would aggressively pursue those who hurt the police, and the courts and penal system harshly punished the same. What happens when those prongs of the social contract no longer exist? What happens when the angry, hungry mobs rise en masse, with complete disregard for previous norms, with no accountability for their actions? What happens when police no longer are held accountable? Here are some scenarios:
POLICE BECOME THEIR OWN MAG
In this scenario, the police go into classic “bunker mode” and focus resources on protecting police stations and officers’ personal homes and families. The police become an exclusive mutual assistance group (MAG) consisting of their own, with the sole mission of protecting their workplace and residences. Response to calls for outsider assistance will be minimal to non-existent.
POLICE BECOME PRIVATE SECURITY
In this scenario, police devote their resources to protecting whoever can compensate them in food and durable goods, such as retailers, warehouses, and shipping terminals. Or possibly to affluent people who can reward protection of life and property with precious metals and other valuables. Again, response to non-compensating requests for assistance will be minimal or non-existent.
POLICE BECOME PART OF THE ANGRY HORDE
In this scenario, society has fully unraveled into every man for themselves and the police are indiscernible from the looters, scavengers, and thieves. Police exploit access to food storage facilities, warehouses, and retailers. Although rare in modern events of mass looting and civil disorder, such extralegal police-involved looting and theft did occur to a limited extent during Hurricane Katrina and most recently in Durban, South Africa.
Perhaps Afghanistan isn’t a perfect template for how the United States would collapse into lawlessness, mainly because we don’t have a resident army of adherents to 7th century Sharia law–not yet at least. However, it does provide insight as to what happens when a country’s internal security apparatus falls apart. As witnessed in just the past two weeks, when the Taliban were no longer contained, the Afghan officers quickly discarded their uniforms, walked away from their posts, and abandoned hope that the government they were part of would protect them. Their focus simply became their own survival, and survival of their families. The Afghan police did not fall into any of the previous examples. They simply disintegrated into a non-entity.
THE POLICE ADVANTAGE
But let’s not overlook the fact that police officers, for valid reasons, have certain advantages which will be especially useful in the event of SHTF situations. Officers are regularly trained in weapon and defensive tactics. Officers have access to various small arms, chemical deterrents, ammunition, Kevlar vests, radio systems, and possibly even surplus armored vehicles. But most importantly, police have each other- a group of like-minded, motivated people they train with and conduct tactical operations with. They know how each other think, they know how each other will move, and they know how each other will react in fluid situations. They know what each other’s specific role is and that supporting each other is key to mission success. As preppers, to have similar dynamics in place would be invaluable when the Schumer Hits The Fan (SHTF).
WHAT THE PREPPER CAN DO
First, recognize the “good guys” might not be in a position to respond when the SHTF and if circumstances get dire enough, the good guys could even become bad guys. This isn’t a criticism of police officers but a reflection of the proven adage that when people are hungry and scared, they become capable of actions previously believed unthinkable. A great read on this dynamic is the excellent account of a blogger named Selco, who survived the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s.
One specific prep that readers can adopt is forming a MAG in your immediate domain, where you become the protection provider in the absence of civil authority. Some ideas to consider:
1. Establishing a core group of sheepdogs, namely close friends and family, neighbors, and like-minded persons. Focus on identifying earnest persons committed to protecting residences and property and mutual resources such as water supply, crops, wildlife, and human life.
2. Establishing mutual communications, such as ham radios and CBs. Every member of the group should have a home base station, mobile radios for vehicles, and handhelds with compatible frequencies. Total cost for a complete UHF/VHF radio setup can be as low as $600, depending on manufacturer. (An example of a simple, practical comms set up would be a Wouxon KG-B55 Dual-band base station at buytwowayradios.com for $399, a QYT KT-8900D car radio for $80 and a couple of Baofeng GT-3WP handhelds for $45 each at that Brazilian river website that we all dislike.
Sidenote: There’s another issue regards FCC licensing and obligation to allow inspection. This topic could be a feature article of its own… in a nutshell, yes, a federal law passed in 1934 does require radio operators (licensed and unlicensed) allow for FCC inspection of radio equipment, including inside their homes. I’m not going to do a deep dive into the legal aspects now but don’t forget: the 4th amendment protects citizens from unwarranted government searches.
3. Obtain group tactical training from someone with actual bona fides in small unit tactics. I say this because not all tactical trainers are created equal; avoid the big talking barrel suckers who learned their close quarters combat techniques via YouTube.
4. Sponsor training sessions with your core group of sheepdogs along with your and their families. Involve all attendees in the training, whether it be a simulated hostage rescue of a family, a mass injury first aid response, or vehicle cover and concealment drills. Make it fun, and have a bbq dinner at the end of the training. Recognize the days those skills get put to actual use is going to be sooner, not later.\
I hope that the foregoing provided some insider perspective of what to expect when the police no longer answer 911 calls. I suspect there may be some pushback from police officers regarding what I’ve posited in respect to police abandoning their oaths and becoming bad guys under certain circumstances. My response is everyone is capable of doing bad things, especially during periods of intense strife, badge or no badge. The more we acknowledge such and prepare for it, the less likely that we’ll become bad guys, too.