April 1, 2023


2 min read

A sign of the forever wars coming home, Eddie Gallagher trained officers from the Tallahassee Police Department.

Peter Maass

SHOULD A MILITARY veteran who has been reliably accused of war crimes, and who admitted that he killed a prisoner, be invited to train police officers on how to do their job?

The police department in Tallahassee, Florida, found a surprising answer to that question. Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, accused by his fellow operators of intentionally shooting civilians and murdering a prisoner in Iraq, shared a photo and video on Instagram last week in which he described working with Tallahassee police officers in close-quarters combat and other lethal skills. He posted a picture of himself flanked by the rifle-bearing officers in Florida, with his caption describing an “awesome day of training” with “an extraordinary group of men who were ready to train and take on new concepts of shooting and CQB to add to their tool box. It was truly an honor!”

After Gallagher’s picture was spotted and shared by journalist Wesley Morgan, the Tallahassee Police Department stumbled forward with a believe-it-or-not statement that its officers were merely practicing at a private facility operated by a company called Stronghold SOF Solutions, which Gallagher is affiliated with. Gallagher happened to be at the facility and offered his “input” to the officers, according to the TPD. The department did not provide an explanation of how or why its officers assembled for a group photo with Gallagher, whose current business endeavors include private instruction on weapons and tactics.

The core problem here is not Gallagher or the Tallahassee Police Department. The conduct of each is consistent with a decades long meshing of the military and policing a violent disaster in America. The process, explored in Radley Balko’s “Rise of the Warrior Cop, ” began in the 1960s, was stepped up during the so-called war on drugs, and reached terminal velocity after 9/11, when vast amounts of funding and weapons were poured into local law enforcement agencies, which deployed these resources mainly against minority and poor communities. One of the most notorious signatures of this destructive process is the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which since 1990 has distributed more than $7.4 billion in military weapons including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and sniper rifles — to police departments across the country.

This deluge of military hardware among civilian populations is harmful enough, creating mini-armies inside American communities that are desperate for better schools and social services. But what’s been just as harmful, if not worse, is the military mindset instilled in police ranks after 9/11. As Arthur Rizer, a former police officer and military veteran, wrote recently, “We have for years told American police officers to regard every civilian encounter as potentially deadly, and that they must always be prepared to win that death match. … It was always obvious to me that military tactics, training and weaponry had little place in civilian policing.”

And that’s where “trainers” like Gallagher come into play.

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