Late in the evening of April 24, 1980, the US military launched a risky operation in the Middle East codenamed “Eagle Claw”.
52 American diplomats and government workers had been held hostage for nearly six months at the former US Embassy in Iran, and Jimmy Carter (then US President) had tasked the military with mounting a rescue.
In military parlance, Eagle Claw was a “Charlie Foxtrot,” i.e. a complete debacle.
Miscommunication, poorly maintained aircraft, and plenty of other factors resulted in the operation being a failure right from the start. And not only did the hostage rescue fail, but 8 US service members were killed.
In the aftermath of Eagle Claw, the US Defense Department took a long, hard look at itself and realized they were poorly equipped to deal with counter-terrorism and hostage rescue missions.
So they decided to create highly trained special operations teams to deal specifically with these types of missions.
And one of the teams they created would become known in popular culture as “SEAL Team 6.”
The training and selection process for SEAL Team 6 is practically impossible. To even be considered, a candidate must typically have passed a two month preparatory course, followed by six months of grueling special warfare training.
Then there’s another month of airborne school, another six months of advanced special warfare training, followed by potentially 18 more months of specialized training in languages, surveillance, demolitions, etc.
Much of this training goes 7 days per week and up to 20 hours per day.
On top of that, SEAL Team 6 candidates must undergo physical and psychological testing, and then, if selected, undergo another 8+ months of specialized training.
Then there’s the marksmanship training.
Like US Army “Delta Force” operators, SEAL Team 6 operators have legendary marksmanship skills.
They train. And train. And train. Until they’re able to kick in a door, sort out ‘hostage’ from ‘bad guy’ in a fraction of a second, and eliminate their targets with surgical precision, all practically be instinct.
Simply put, they’re some of the best trained people in the world at what they do.
They’ve been authorized to use deadly force when necessary… but they’ve also receive thousands of hours of training, testing, and scrutiny to make sure they’re worthy of the responsibility.
Conversely, most police officers in the Land of the Free are authorized to use deadly force after just a modest amount of training.
This doesn’t take anything away from the men and women who go through those programs; many of them simply want to serve their communities and help keep people safe.
The larger point is that their training is simply insufficient.
In the State of Louisiana, for example, it only takes 360 hours of training to be awarded a badge, firearm, and right to use lethal force.
(Not to mention, that 360 hours of training typically entitles a police officer to full legal protection from prosecution based on ‘qualified immunity’ rules.)
But if you want a government license to be able to braid hair in Louisiana, you’ll need to undergo 500 hours of training– 140 more hours than it takes to become a police officer. Yes I’m serious.
In fact, across the United States, on average it takes twice as many training hours to become a barber, than it does to become a police officer.
I’ve written numerous times before about the ridiculous licensing requirements, often for blue collar vocations, across the Land of the Free.
It takes 50% more training to become a cosmetologist in the state of Kentucky, for example, than it does to become a police officer.
The State of New York requires 1,000 hours of training to become a licensed massage therapist. But the NYPD sends its recruits through less than 500 hours of training at its police academy.
The typical argument is that 500 hours of training is sufficient because cops will learn the job once they’re actually in the field gaining experience. But that’s not really true.
Cops in the field may quickly learn the day-to-day routine. They’ll become proficient at writing tickets, filling out reports, and dealing with low-level crimes.
But most cops rarely draw and fire their weapons; discharging a firearm is NOT a common occurrence that’s part of their daily routines.
Those heated moments are rare. In fact, some police officers go their entire careers without ever once firing their weapons at a suspect.
So in the unlikely event that it ever happens, a typical police officer has neither the training nor experience to be able to make split-second life/death decisions while under intense pressure.
To be cool under extreme circumstances and be able to ascertain whether a suspect is legitimately a threat… and to have the precise marksmanship skills to be to discharge a weapon in a non-lethal way… takes SEAL Team 6 level training.
360 hours of training at a police academy, and a few years’ experience as a beat cop, will never prepare someone to react properly in such a high-stress environment.
Other countries recognize this.
In Europe, for example, many nations (Norway, Iceland, Germany, etc) typically spend YEARS training their police. Some even have specialized universities where they prepare candidates for a career in law enforcement.
But in the Land of the Free, state and local politicians have deemed that cosmetologists require more advanced training than someone who has the right to use lethal force… and needs to be able to do so under intense pressure.
This is a pretty screwed up system of priorities and helps explain why there are so many mishaps, shootings, and scandals involving the police.