Profiling or Situational Awareness?

By Russ Vaughn

Recently American Thinker ran a piece, “Profiling, a Darwinian Necessity,” in which author, Richard Butrick, correctly identified the tendency to observe one’s surroundings and perceive threats to be a survival mechanism genetically hardwired into human brains, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Butrick’s observation got me to thinking back to my days as a combat infantryman NCO in Vietnam.  The truth of his premise allowed me to be here now writing this.

georgetrayvon_small1 Profiling or Situational Awareness?

Looking back to those long-ago years, it’s difficult to pinpoint when, as a private, I first heard some Army officer or NCO use the term situational awareness.  Like most young privates, I likely paid little heed to the critical, even mortal, importance of that term.

But with more experience in the field as an infantryman, it became obvious to me that one of the essential skills of a successful warrior is a finely honed proficiency in situational awareness.  That consists of being constantly aware of where you are at what time, of who is with you and where they are in relation to you, of what direction all of you are moving and into what kind of terrain, and most importantly, what potentially lethal threat lies ahead or to your flanks (and sometimes, in really tough times, behind you).  An awareness of all that input from your surrounding environment allows a functioning assessment of the risk to yourself and your men and the ability to determine if that risk is reasonable.

And most importantly, containable and controllable.

Learning to be situationally aware is the bedrock of being a successful warrior.  It is an absolutely indispensable requirement for infantry officers and NCOs who are looking to bring their troops home safely.  The key to being skilled at situational awareness is the ability to learn from experience so that one recognizes patterns of both physical situations and human behaviors and is able to sort out those that are risky from those that pose a true deadly threat.  And the more refined your warfighting missions become, the greater the requirement for situational awareness skills.  Those who have it perfected to greatest degree are those who make up our special operations forces.  Some of those people have situational awareness honed to such an extent as to seem clairvoyant.

But this is a skill that is not limited to soldiers on the ground.  Every aviator, civilian and military, has to be constantly aware of absolutely everything occurring in the environment surrounding his aircraft.  I can imagine that this is magnified a thousandfold for combat helicopter pilots and crews.  All first responders must have well-developed situational awareness skills, and that is why, when injected into emergency environments, they are asking a steady stream of rapid-fire questions: to enhance their awareness of what is happening and what has happened.  Finally, there is probably no greater demand on any human being for top-notch situational awareness skills than on a ship’s captain, especially those commanding war vessels.  Ship captains probably have better situational skills when sleeping than most fully-awake civilians.

So what does all this have to do with profiling?  Well, first of all, profiling just happens to be the application of situational awareness skills to our everyday environment.  The process of assessing that environment and our position in it and the potential dangers present is in full and constant operation for those who must deal with the threats to that society.

Since it is the police who seem to come in for the greatest criticism from the lefties with regard to profiling, let’s look at how situational awareness is an essential skill for any police officer.  Consider for a moment how we train young rookie cops; we pair them with veteran officers so that they can benefit from the latter’s experiences.  And just what are those experiences conveyed to the rookie?  They are patterns of circumstances and human behaviors that are fed into the rookie’s brain to help form an accurate assessment of his true situational awareness, which can have lethal consequences if ignored.

I have many times seen Texas state troopers out in the endless miles of Interstate 10, between San Antonio and El Paso, involved in roadside pullovers of large BMWs, Mercedes, and Escalades with California or Florida plates, driven by black or Hispanic males.  Are they, the cops, profiling?  Bet your butt they are.  But why is that?  How about because the history of major drug busts on I-10 in West Texas, the primary conduit between Southern California (read: Tijuana) and Florida, involves the very types of drivers the Texas troopers tend to pull over.

Those troopers are guilty of employing nothing more than situational awareness in their patrolling of those endless miles of Interstate 10.  There is a great likelihood that black or Hispanic males driving luxury vehicles have a high correlation with  cross-continent drug-haulers.  In that process, do some innocents get stopped and temporarily inconvenienced?  Sure they do.  But is that of any greater import than the inconvenience we all suffer in the security measures associated with contemporary air travel?  In every airport, we meekly submit because it’s for the greater good of America.  Isn’t halting the ground flow of drugs between Tijuana and Miami equally beneficial to the well-being of America?

I’ve used a rather specific example here (which I’m sure will be denied by the Texas Department of Public Safety), but the truth is that profiling is practiced by them and all other law enforcement agencies on a regular basis across America.  And for good reason: profiling helps put away bad guys.  Liberals can scream in protest all they want, but the simple, incontrovertible truth is that such profiling helps take bad guys off the street and out of circulation.  I realize that truth means little to people such as this one, who laments the fact that crime is going down because we’re locking up those bad guys.  Such ignorance can only be described as sad.

Try to comprehend the liberal mind…

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