Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Counter-Insurgency In Springfield?

There was a very interesting story recently in The New York Times about Massachusetts State Police adapting a special forces counter-insurgency model to police a community with a significant gang problem.

Before their deployments, Troopers Cutone and Sarrouf might have been similarly distant. But their experience overseas changed their perspective, convincing them that it was futile to fight a war without gaining the trust and support of those most affected by it. So in 2009, when gang violence spiked and community leaders and the city police were eager to develop new tactics, the troopers proposed trying the counterinsurgency strategies they had been trained to use in Iraq.

“It was kind of an ‘aha’ moment,” Trooper Cutone said. “Gang members and drug dealers operate very similarly to insurgents. I don’t mean they’re looking to overthrow the state. But the way that they blend into the passive support of the community and use that to their advantage is very similar.”

On a sheet of butcher paper, Trooper Cutone drafted a plan, listing goals like “Work by, with and through the local population,” and “Detect, degrade, disrupt and dismantle criminal activity” — maxims similar to those drilled into him during counterinsurgency training in the Special Forces.

While "counter-insurgency" sounds ominous on the surface, the tactics they are employing such as getting community leaders involved, building up trust, and working together to solve community problems are the same tactics used in community policing.

Regardless of whether you are dealing with a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan or an out of control criminal "insurgency" in a Massachusetts community, winning the hearts and minds of the population is the only way you are going to have long term success.

What is your agency doing to win the hearts and minds of the citizens you serve?

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