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What would be the pros and cons of a merged military and police?

In the world I am building war is an ongoing issue, and so the culture's military is quite extensive. Also the majority of people carry weapons around with them because it's 'the norm' there.

The war is an ongoing conflict which flares up then goes quiet for a while.

Honor is a major part of life, meaning you can't attack someone who is unarmed, can't attack them if they are unable to defend themselves, etc.

For the purpose of this question the only thing a police-style force in this world would have to do is keep an eye on things and break up the occasional drunken fight.

In this situation, the culture has their military and police merged, so my question is: what would the pros and cons of this merged force be?

The military already have shifts of "watching" or guarding, so the idea is that they are allowed to intervene to stop unnecessary deaths

The setting is high fantasy.

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    $\begingroup$ So honorable men won't normally kill unarmed young women, but what about, you know, criminals? There has never been a human society in history without criminals. Anyway. "High fantasy" usualy implies a mock-Renaissance setting; there was no public order police force as such in the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance, or in the Early Modern period. (What they had was crews of burly men paid by the city.) The first public order police force was created in the 17th century, in Paris. The major problem with the idea is that in pre-modern times soldiers were very expensive. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 4 '18 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ Has to be mentioned: kineticscribe.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/… $\endgroup$ – Douwe Sep 4 '18 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ That situation has been pretty much the norm throughout human history. Feudal lords were both military commanders and responsible for ensuring law and order in their domains. It's only in the last few hundred years that we've had civilian law enforcement. $\endgroup$ – nzaman Sep 4 '18 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with merging military and police is that they're two radically different skill sets, even though "uniformed men carrying guns" seems superficially similar. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 4 '18 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ "There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people" $\endgroup$ – Frozendragon Sep 5 '18 at 17:32

16 Answers 16

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Police and Military should never be merged. They have different missions and are set up completely differently.

If you look at countries in conflict, and those that are stable today, you see a pattern emerging. If militaries are patrolling civilian streets, you are in an unstable violent environment - it never ends well.

This is because they have fundamentally different missions. Militaries are broad, equipped to kill many to defend a nation. Police are more deft and nuanced, and have a role mainly in dealing with petty crimes, small threats, and also even 'customer service'.

So your pro-con list:

Pros

  • Simplicity: it may be simpler to just have your military walking the streets. It might save you time and effort to not have to bother with setting up another force.
  • Cost: perhaps lower?
  • Deterrence: having armed squads walking the street may have some deterrent effect, although in reality they don't have as much effect as you would expect.

Cons

  • Overbearing: Having military walking streets blurs the distinction between serving civilians and treating them like an enemy instead.
  • Non-equipped: Militaries are meant do deal with large forces. Even in current day, they are equipped with high-explosives, assault rifles, weapons which are meant to be used in combat. They are not intended for domestic situations, petty theft, or dealing with emotional civilians.
  • Training: Police are trained to deal with the populace. They are trained to talk to them, find out 'the story', deal with emotional people, settle them down. Militaries are trained simply to kill them.
  • Structure: Militaries have a rigid command structure, necessary to manoeuvre large forces over lots of ground, with combined arms tactics the norm. This is completely irrelevant in a crime, city or petty theft context. Police are more likely to be structured flexibly, with homicide teams set up to work collaboratively on a problem, small forces on the ground, and units established to deal with servicing the public.

Even the ancient Romans realised the need for a separate 'Police' to 'Military'. One could say a major problem with conflict-ridden countries today is the lack of a true separate police force.

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    $\begingroup$ It is a good answer, but the last paragraph seems strange to me. What would have been the ancient Roman's equivalent to police forces? The lictors were more bodyguards than policemen. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Sep 4 '18 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 there was also a group of People called vigiles having duties of police and firefighters. $\endgroup$ – MEE was the missing bracket Sep 4 '18 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 Yes MEE is right - the Vigiles Urbani were specifically organised to keep Rome safe. They even started by being made up of slaves, as opposed to the military elite. It is worth noting that as time went on Augustus also realised he needed a separate Cohortes Urbanae, who had some military training but had special training to deal with larger problems the Vigiles couldn't handle - call it a modern day SWAT team - but they were never meant to be a fighting force and were normally kept in reserve and always out of sight. $\endgroup$ – flox Sep 5 '18 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ This answer is only addressing the very specific scenario of taking the military, exactly as is, and throwing them on the street. That specifically may not work, but you seem to be missing the fact that you can train, equip and structure them differently. $\endgroup$ – NotThatGuy Sep 7 '18 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ Militaries are trained simply to kill them. That's a very simplified image of the military. Peace-keeping military are very much trained to interact with civilians and do end up fulfilling roles that are traditionally the police's. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Sep 7 '18 at 14:04
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There's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people. -Admiral Adama, Battlestar Galactica

I find that quote describes the pros and cons of a combined military and police very well. The cons are easy to spot, but the pros are there as well. If you want the enemies of state to be the people, or if they are the enemies of state already, then such a combined approach is very useful.

The demarcation between "fight" and "serve" is very useful here. Soldiers certainly serve their country, and police certainly fight against crime, but there does seem to be a very meaningful demarcation between them. That demarcation is evident in the skillsets we teach soldiers and police. It's worth noting that, in today's society, we often laugh at police shooting skills and their woeful lack of training (whether deserved or not), but if you look at what is expected of a police officer versus a soldier, you start to see why the military may spend more time drilling with their firearms.

You can also erase the demarcation line if the military skillset becomes needed. If the police regularly are expected to arrive after it is too late, and war has already broken out, then the military skillset is very useful. If the opponent is regularly dug in, the police mentality may not be enough.

I also find it useful to look at the environments that police and military work in. The police are generally more expected to work within the limits of the environment, while the military tends to overcome it. Even the SWAT, with their notoriety for bringing perhaps more force than is necessary can't call in a 2000lb. laser guided bomb to resolve a shootout. I find this attitude permeates the military. It doesn't matter what obstacle is in front of them, their job is to overcome it.

I got a great lesson in this recently sailing in San Diego with an ex. Navy captaining my boat. We saw an LCAC hovercraft, steaming out to do drills. The captain took the opportunity to point out that that the hovercraft could carry an Abrams tank over the top of an 8 foot wall and deposit it on the other side.

My first thought is "well that's stupid, isn't it." Why would you spend money on such an absurd feature, no matter how flashy.

Then I had to think about it again. When I realized the answer, the only word out of my mouth was, "Oh."

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    $\begingroup$ Quoting BSG. A Man after my own heart. +1 $\endgroup$ – UIDAlexD Sep 5 '18 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ The wall in this case is an ocean wave wall. Hovercraft are not intended to deal with opposed landings. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Sep 5 '18 at 22:51
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TL;DR: Using military instead of police will result is distrust, disobedience and violence from civilian population. My points are below; also see Flox's answers for excellent points, and quote linked by Douwe in the comments.

Police protect people from themselves. When they break up a drunken fight, their goal is to minimize the damage to the fighters. Typically, police should be have superior numbers and superior weapons and armor to the "criminals" that they deal with. Police have firearms, but they (should) try to avoid using them, or rather avoid getting to a point where firearms become necessary.

Military kills enemies. Their approach to a drunken fight is: should we kill them right now, or wait and see if they kill each other, or otherwise stop being a threat to "our people". Military units are trained to engage enemy force with same numbers and weapons as themselves, so "shoot first" is valid and expected.

That's what there is military police -- the unit that does police work among members of the military. Note that RL military members are very much like your citizens, armed and honorable.

Using military units to do police work results in abuses by military and insurgency among the local population. Iraq and Afghanistan are latest examples. The "hearts and minds" approach is essentially training military to do police work.

A more subtle, but relevant example is Police-vs-Blacks mentality that has lead to a increasing number of shooting deaths in the US. There is a vicious cycle where hostility by (a portion of) civilian population and to increasingly trigger-happy police continuously reinforce each other.

If you want another analogy: police are like teachers in preschool, breaking up fights between kids; military are the security officer in the front, keeping drunks and perverts out. Do you really want the security officer dealing with tantrums?

And yet another contrast. In military, a valid and common tactic is "suppressive fire" -- just shooting into the general vicinity of where they think the enemy is. Police are not allowed to fire until they have the criminal clearly in sigh, and said criminal is not just armed, but likely to shoot somebody.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, "suppressive fire" is the primary purpose of infantry-carried machine guns. Machine guns aren't for toting around like an action-movie star and blasting down lines of enemies, they are for maintaining a steady stream of bullets in the opponent's direction so that they have to keep their heads down. $\endgroup$ – Robert Columbia Sep 5 '18 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ The thing in the last paragraph about police not being allowed to shoot carelessly is generally right, but only on paper. For example, police in Germany wears machine pistols at/near railway stations or airports, and sometimes patrolling busy places in the city. A machine pistol is explicitly designed to not fire a well-aimed shot at a particular, well-identified target. It's designed to be high-cadence-low-accuracy. In other words, the exact thing that you want to fire in a busy place with many innocent civilians! Lotsa poorly aimed bullets in the air, awesome. $\endgroup$ – Damon Sep 7 '18 at 11:55
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In a high fantasy setting, you need no justification. High fantasy typically takes its cue from European history. Before Robert Peel in the 1800s, there was no concept in any European country that there should be a civilian police force. Policing was carried out by the local militia. As time passed, the concept of a 'thief taker' also entered the frame, but these were employed by individuals (sometimes by magistrates) and were more like private mercenaries. The idea of having an independent police force and judiciary in a feudal society is virtually impossible, and the very idea is anachronistic.

As for weaponry, remember that most of Europe was at war for most of the time. Weapons were easy to come by. Some countries or towns limited who was allowed to carry what weapons (especially swords), but there was widespread training in stick fighting, wrestling and archery in the same way as we'd do Parkrun today. And everyone carried a knife, all the time, even the youngest children

Pros and cons of this? Read the history books. On the pro side, when the people you're trying to arrest are heavily armed and most likely ex-military, then you're going to need good equipment and training yourself to stand a chance. For the cons though, as other people have noted, the military are really bad at law enforcement. So in Britain we have the crushing of the Peasants' Revolt, suppression of the Levellers, and the Peterloo Massacre, to pick three obvious examples.

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  • $\begingroup$ Didn't Lois XIV of France set up a Civilian Police Force during the 1660s? Or 1285's Statute of Winchester in Great Britain? (Although the watchmen there were move a combination of Police and Firefighter) $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Sep 5 '18 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal Watchmen may superficially look like police, but in practise they were at best paramilitary groups, and often overtly military. The Sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood stories may not be historical fact, but his authority and soldiers certainly were. I wasn't aware of that police force in France (led by Reynie) - thanks for that. The French very much changed their minds on policing later though! $\endgroup$ – Graham Sep 5 '18 at 11:41
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Police forces under military jurisdiction are fairly common in the real world, and the pros/cons in your situation should be the same.

The role of a militarized police force is to be a well-trained, well-equipped force that can deal with other well-armed groups and violent situations. Because of this, these forces must follow military standards when it comes to recruitment, training, and equipment, all of which are more strict and expensive than normal police forces. This means that a smaller pool of candidates are qualified to join the force, and more resources must be devoted to maintaining the force.

In short,

  • Pros: They would be able to effectively police high-threat areas and respond to situations that a normal police force would not be able to handle, such as surprise attacks during the world's frequent wars.
  • Cons: If it follows military standards then it is a waste of resources in most situations(such as breaking up bar fights) and expensive to maintain across the nation, and if it doesn't follow military standards then it is just a regular police force.
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    $\begingroup$ In most modern nations, the requirements for becoming a policeman are higher than those for becoming an ordinary soldiers. Some have a draft where most young men serve, while only a few qualify for the police. The soldier has to be faster on the obstacle course, and better with a rifle, but the policeman has to be well versed in the law as it applies to police operations. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Sep 4 '18 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ Another pro, cost. Observe Coast Guards in particular; ships and aircraft are expensive to buy and run, so it makes economic sense to have the same force in charge of border protection as civil tasks like search and rescue, enforcing licensing and safety. $\endgroup$ – user71659 Sep 4 '18 at 22:37
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    $\begingroup$ It's overly reductive to claim that the rôle of a gendarmerie is just to handle violent situations. In Spain, for instance, the Guardia Civil does handle anti-terrorism, but it also handles traffic policing outside the cities, and can be called upon by judges for such mundane tasks as searching offices for documents relevant to a case. $\endgroup$ – Peter Taylor Sep 5 '18 at 13:52
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The military doesn't go in playing second fiddle, while police often do

It is generally assumed that when military forces are deployed into a situation, they are bringing their own command structure with them. This is not true for police forces, who often have to operate in a scene where they are not responsible for Incident Command -- in particular, in most mass-casualty mishaps, it is fire/EMS that establishes and maintains the ICS, with the police playing supporting roles (evacuating folks ahead of hazards, staging equipment, controlling traffic, and the likes).

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I Think You'll Find the Answer in the Evolution of Police Forces

Police Forces are generally to be believed to have begun with the first Lieutenant General of Police in Paris around 1667.

Prior to this, the state of things was:

  • Nobility provided justice in their regions, with the system of heirarchy between barons of single-towns, counts of whole counties, and dukes of larger provinces, all answerable to the king of the country.
  • Soldiers (maybe not highly trained or highly professional) were paid for by the noble enforced judgments. These soldiers enforced judgements, when it was necessary to do so. These same soldiers would be loaned out to the king for war, for disputes between nobles, for helping higher or lower ranking nobles.
  • Townsfolk may be appointed as justices or deputies to help relieve the noble of this burden.
  • Nobility also had extra duties, beyond dispensing justice, including managing their territory, contributing to their neighbors, higher (and lower) rank nobles, appearing in the king's Court to keep the family from being forgotten, and so on.
  • In a highly populated metropolitan area (Paris) the number of crimes to work overwhelmed the available staff, especially if it was only a part-time duty.

Thus, a full-time police force was recognized to focus on dealing with crime (primarily collecting taxes and quelling public disturbances).

So, from that, I take it that the pre-Police conditions in Paris were that it was practically a battleground from time-to-time (read Les Miserables and you'll see parts of the city frequently rioting and building up barricades, and it seemed to happen often enough to be a headache). Creating a full-time police force kept the wars out of the city and created an area of relative calm near the capital. It also started getting the people who took advantage of the chaos to skip paying their taxes back into line.

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Obviously you don't want each of your soldiers as Law Enforcement Officers, basic military training can't/won't/shouldn't cover all the intricacies of the law and psychology that a LEO should be versed in. But you could have a sizeable percentage of your guys be specialized as civilian police officers.

While wearing the 'CPO' hat, they are on detached duty, operating under a different command while still being a part of the Department of the Army or what have you.

It'd be like a reserve or national guard soldier who works as a LEO as their regular job, except that only one organization signs their pay stub. Or they could just serve as adjuncts/helpers for the regular police forces - do a one to one ratio to keep police numbers up and your soldiers gainfully employed.

You could even have your regular soldiers undergo training in some basic policing skills like breaking up fights, but only when called upon and lead by one of the CPOs. It doesn't take much extra training to man the line as a riot cop for example.

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I can only see this work if the military and Police are still seperate entities but closely working together. This to keep their mission statements clear.

The Police might be militarized and have things like full armor and solid equipment, but when it comes to war they will be a defensive force. Their primary goal would be to evacuate the civilians, set up defensive area's to catch enemies that managed to pull through and organize+arm militia's that formed in the city.

The military would just do what it does best, but can offload work to the Police and militia's when necessary. Think tasks like cooking food, hauling arrows or other munitions, providing temporary relief for troops in a pinch, scouting etc. This keeps the military out of the civilians way (and vice versa) and gives a clear boundry the military cannot cross. Should the military decide to do bad stuff to the population for a powerplay or something then the Police still has their mission statement to protect the civilians, and will have the expertise to organize the civilians against hostiles.

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  • $\begingroup$ No! That is a major point: A mission statement is just worth nothing when you hope, or order, that two groups of people fight each other when they are part of the same organisation. $\endgroup$ – Volker Siegel Sep 5 '18 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ I feel pretty save with how it is in Germany: There is the GSG9, the elite special forces of the federal police, and the KSK, the elite special forces of the army. Both well on the level of handling terrorism. And now the important point: They dislike each other! They would fight the guys from the other organisation if needed. $\endgroup$ – Volker Siegel Sep 5 '18 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Volker Siegel I see your point but dont think it has any bearing on the status quo. The KSK and GSG9 specifically have the same goal: anti-terrorism. The militarized Police and military in my idea have specific different goals: one to protect and organize civilians and the other to plan and wage war on a large stragetic level. The militarized Police (and militia's) would at best be in support of the army when it's about fighting and during disaster relief or similar if the army HAS to be involved it supports the militarized Police. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Sep 5 '18 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ The point is, the GSG9 are policeman of the normal police. They are unrelated to the military police - they come from the culture of the normal police. They are well trained black guys with big guns. But some of them are psychologists, all well trained in negotiating with some guys with assault rifles, and a full airliner of hostages, some already shot. Good snipers do not help. Kill one, and you have no hostages left. That is different than a group of the best of the military - who are much better in other cases, like finding and killing some specific targets. $\endgroup$ – Volker Siegel Sep 5 '18 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Volker Siegel and all that has no real relation to my idea of a separate militarized Police and military that can work together. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Sep 5 '18 at 21:59
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Pros

The military can handle extremely sensitive or dangerous situations that the police can't.

The military can be reassuring in times of extreme conflict.

The military has enough specializations that they can do many different jobs well.

The military is harder to bribe because there are so many people and somany command chains.

Cons

The military is very hard to mobilize quickly. Once they do, they are pretty unstoppable. That isn't what you are going for when a call comes in and you have only minutes to respond and you don't need a ton of firepower.

The police can handle many kinds of incidents and are generalized while the military has specialists and is only suited to fighting. The military is great at killing people, not so much at writing parking tickets.

The military is so specialized that you have to have a very large group of people with different talents on standby so they can deal with different situations, and many people on standby will rarely ever get called in.

The military will be tied up with domestic issues when a war starts. Without a police force, no one can take control while they are off fighting another country.

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If you've got no external threats, and you haven't had any for a really long time, you might not have a military - or even the idea of one. It is entirely possible that your world, while heavily armed and violent, doesn't have a good concept of war.

In such a world, if the need for a military were to arise, it would probably be met by the police.

Alternatively, As many posters have remarked, military policing can get pretty oppressive, but there are many countries where one group of people must be protected from another. Two examples are South Africa and Israel. Another example would be the armed guards surrounding the African Rhinos. I'm sure that the Rhino hunters find the guards to be oppressive.

If you have a world with generations of sectarian conflict, your police force may also be a peacekeeping (military) force.

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Pros and Cons of the merge

You have gotten a variety of answers that are biased towards modern democratic societies, none of which you are bound to emulate in your high fantasy world. A more pros and cons focused assessment is as follows:

Pros:

  1. Save money: you don't need two hierarchical structures to run the armed official elements of society.

  2. Simplicity of jurisdiction: whatever your legal or justice system looks like, there is one official law enforcement agency to deal with.

  3. Flexibility: be it a foreign invasion or an insurrection, one stop shopping.

Cons:

  1. Opportunity costs for the leaders of this government: when choosing how and when to use military force for a reason. What amount of security and police work is sacrificed for deciding to send a lot of soldiers to a conflict with (nation x)?
  2. Corruption: when too much power is concentrated in too few hands, the chances for corruption increases. Example: a few soldiers-cops are out having beers and get into a brawl/trouble. Who is arresting them? Their own buddies?(far too likely) With the separated domains, police and military, this problem or risk is significantly reduced.

    This particular problem is not uncommon in the modern world where the lines are blurred, or non existent, as discussed in a few of the answers above.

  3. Who will guard the guards? The means by which civil control is wrested from the government in a coup is all in one place. The lack of a "checks and balances" in the structure of the armed element of government creates risks to the political leadership.

    Depending on how your story, your narrative, and your world is intended to work, this might be, for you the world builder, a pro since it provides ample fodder for intrigue, tension, conflict, and general skullduggery.

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Here in Brazil we need a militarized police, with armored cars and FN-FALs patrolling the streets, because the criminals are guerrilla militia with G3s, granades and heavy machine guns. The military police (PM in portuguese) acts against these criminals and also do ostensive policing but, even with military hierarchy and, legally speaking, being an armed force like the Army or the Navy, they can't use the really heavy gear like artillery and deadly light arms like granade lauchers and chemical weapows in granades.

Also, the PM is famous for it's corruption and brutality, corroborating what was said about military policing civilians as many posters said above. That brutality is not a bug, it's a feature, a feature of the harsh military training in brazillian armed forces, with lots of physical and psychological punishments inflicted upon the rookies.

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    $\begingroup$ The brutality isn't inherently a problem. It's the corruption you want to look out for. It's all too common in such circumstances for the police to not actually eliminate the threat, because the continuation of the threat is what guarantees their jobs and justifies accumulating more power for themselves. A militarized population is usually a more effective deterrent to guerilla/terrorist warfare than militarized police. Israel is a fairly good example of that. (Although they do have both.) $\endgroup$ – Perkins Sep 7 '18 at 21:10
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A possible con, is that the ruler of the country, by necessity must be a military commander. Otherwise invariably there will be a coup.

A military commander is really only going to be interested in maintaining control, and solving all problems with military solutions. They're not necessarily going to be effective at taking care of all the other basic needs of the civilian population, or establishing mutually beneficial trade agreements with neighbouring countries.

After-all, it makes little sense, from a militarist perspective, to be paying your neighbour for their resources and produce, when you can simply invade and take it by force.

A militarist empire can be relatively successful, but eventually may grow too large to be able to protect itself, and may eventually collapse due to internal power struggles and corruption.

Even if a pseudo diplomatic ruler is installed, they can never be more than a puppet to the military commanders. Their rule can only last as long as they're making decisions which directly align with the wishes of the military commanders.

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Peace is maintained and tyranny avoided via balance of power. People don't generally start fights they don't think they can win or, at least, avoid losing.

When you merge the police and the military into the same organization under the control of the same people, you get an organization that is strong enough to defeat foreign governments in pitched battle plus strong enough and well-informed enough to maintain a modicum of control over the domestic population. These two things added together yield a high probability of developing an organization powerful enough to attempt subjugation of the domestic population. The instant the external pressure of foreign war is off, somebody is likely to start plotting to become God-Emperor, and the command and control mechanisms they'll need to be successful are already in position, they need merely have sufficient political clout to take control of them.

As for pros, in the culture you've described, there really aren't any. The need for government-sponsored police seems to be minimal. In such a culture a national police force is unlikely to have formed yet and security is likely provided as needed by private contractors. You can find real-world examples of such cultures in pre-Norman Britain. It works better than "modern" cultures like to admit. Most people in such a society would view the sudden imposition of military policing with suspicion if not outright hostility as it would be seen as both an insult ("You backward peasants can't take care of your own problems") and as the first step toward the rulers centralizing power into an absolute government and stripping citizens of their rights. ("They're getting our children used to accepting orders and punishments from specially-appointed outsiders that don't have our best interests at heart. Someday we will all be serfs if we don't stop this now.")

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I will offer a different perspective, and argue that under the right circumstances a policing military may function with greater professionalism than a civilian police force. In fact, I will argue this is already demonstrable in America...

It's worth prefacing that the benefits of this are also drawbacks. The military has more authority and less regulation on its behaviour than civilian institutions, but given the right objectives and ethics this may not matter much.


Stephen Mader was a US Marine Corp veteran who had served in Afghanistan. He then quit the military and joined the police. One day he was called to a domestic incident, and had been told a man (Ronald D Williams) was outside waving a gun about. Along the way he got an update that the man's girlfriend had called. She had tried to explain that her boyfriend was depressed and suicidal, and had created a scene to invoke suicide by cop.

Mader arrived at the scene and in this moment relied upon his experience from Afghanistan. In Afghanistan he learned to assess whether the people passing him in the street wanted to kill him or not. Soldiers in Afghanistan were instructed to use caution before resorting to violence, otherwise mistakes could happen which would push more Afghanis into the arms of their enemies.

He saw Williams waving a gun about for show, and didn't see anything in Williams' behaviour to suggest violent intent. Mader tells Williams to put the gun down, so they can talk.

Mader's colleagues then arrive to provide backup, and they make a shallow assessment. Here is a civilian waving a gun about, threatening police officers. They tell Williams to drop the gun. He doesn't and they shoot him. He dies from his injuries. Mader is then fired for 'endangering' his colleagues by refusing to shoot Williams.


The US military in Afghanistan evolved much like the British army did in Northern Ireland, learning that brutality often backfired and that they needed to operate carefully to avoid inflaming resistance against them. A military that has evolved in response to such circumstance would place a high value on caution and reading people. Consequently they may operate with greater professionalism than a civilian police force which does not need to worry about a popular backlash from being trigger happy.

The situation you describe sounds a bit like Northern Ireland's Troubles; a war which comes and goes, the military always watchful. Although maybe I'm just reading that into it, since you say most of their duties will be breaking up drunk fights.

Incidentally, there's an informative podcast where Sam Harris interviews Jocko Willink, a former navy SEAL who was deployed to Iraq. It contains an interesting discussion on the idea that training for violence, with martial arts especially, helps to reduce the chances of a needlessly deadly escalation. Inferring that soldiers given proper training may lead to less deadly outcomes in civilian confrontations precisely because they are more confident of their ability to inflict deadly violence, and thus are less willing to use it... admittedly this could be said for military or police.

Another benefit of combining the police and military might be far more extensive intelligence gathering operations. The military can just create watchtowers and road blocks and various other check points wherever they please because they operate above usual civilian oversight. They also will be able to use spies in a way the police usually wouldn't, creating extensive networks to attempt to control subversive elements. Like Britain's FRU, or Pakistan's ISI. But this can get out of hand for obvious reasons.

In conclusion, I'm going against the popular feeling. Policing with the military is a great idea* for the aforementioned reasons, and offers many unique benefits given the right context. After all, there's already paramilitary police forces operating under military leadership in many countries without problems, such as France's National Gendarmerie, or Italy's Carabinieri. Gendarmeries are actually remarkably common around the world.

( * This is not an endorsement of using the military to police civilians. )

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