Ben Taub wrote a 2018 New Yorker article titled The Spy Who Came Home: Why an expert in counterterrorism became a beat cop. Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer, is now a police officer in Savannah, Georgia.

«  “We have to stop treating people like we’re in Fallujah,” Patrick Skinner said. “Just look what happened in Fallujah.” »

« Police receive little training on de-escalation. “This is how situations go so, so badly—yet justifiably, legally,” Skinner said. »

« The preferred weapon of the Taliban—and of most insurgencies, worldwide—is the Kalashnikov, a Soviet-developed assault rifle that can penetrate a person’s torso from more than half a mile away. Last year, Bradley McClellan confiscated a Kalashnikov and several pistols from two juvenile pot dealers in Savannah. Although police-issue bulletproof vests can stop rounds fired from a handgun, they are useless against assault rifles. “After seeing what little kids can get their hands on, I went out and bought hard plates,” designed for use in war zones, McClellan told me. The plates cost him more than five hundred dollars—a week’s salary. »

« At Georgia’s state police-training facilities, the focus is “all tactics and law,” Skinner told me. Officers are taught that “once you give a lawful order it has to be followed—and that means immediately.” … There’s no training on how to de-escalate tense scenarios in which no crime has been committed, even though the majority of police calls fall into that category. It is up to the officer’s discretion to shape these interactions, and the most straightforward option is to order belligerent people to the ground and, if they resist, tackle them and put them in cuffs.  »

«  Skinner always drives with the windows down: he tries to maximize the number of encounters people have with the police in which they feel neither scrutinized nor under suspicion. “You sometimes hear cops talk about people in the community as ‘civilians,’ but that’s bullshit,” he said. “We’re not the military. The people we’re policing are our neighbors. This is not semantics—if you say it enough, it becomes a mind-set.” »

«  While Al Qaeda aims to carry out what its operatives call “spectacular attacks,” he explained, ISIS obsesses over creating a “spectacular reaction.” As an example, he recounted an incident in Garland, Texas, in which two wannabe jihadis were killed after attempting a raid on a provocative anti-Muslim convention. The men had no coherent affiliation with ISIS; they merely followed its instructions—which have been widely disseminated by the American media—to post online that they were acting on behalf of the group. “If you strip the word ‘terrorism,’ two idiots drove from Arizona and got shot in a parking lot,” Skinner said. The real threat to American life was the response. “We shut down cities,” he said. “We change our laws. We change our societies.” He went on, “We’re basically doing their work for them.”

“Getting killed by ISIS in Savannah is like expecting to get hit by a piano falling from an asteroid,” Skinner said. “It’s batshit insane. Day to day, it’s the people who are kicking in doors and stealing cars who are actually making life unbearable.”  »

« According to a study by Brown University, since 2001 the average American taxpayer has contributed more than twenty-three thousand dollars to veterans’ care, homeland security, and military operations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. “I used to spend more money on meals and entertainment for a couple of sources in Amman, each year, than the Savannah Police Department has to spend on cars,” Skinner told me. “And whatever the American people got out of my meals in Amman had way less impact on their lives than what was happening down the block.”  »

«  “But, if the C.I.A. taught me one thing, it is to always be acutely aware of the tremendous amount of shit I don’t know.” »

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