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The Ethical Warrior: What is a warrior?

If a warrior is a person who fights in wars, are law enforcement officers warriors?

Editor’s Note: Jack Hoban’s new book, The Ethical Warrior: Values, Morals and Ethics — For Life, Work, and Service, is now available. More information is available here.

The most famous definition of war is attributed to Prussian soldier and military theorist Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz (1780 –1831): “War is the continuation of politics by other means.”

We don’t know about you, but that definition is about a clear as mud to us.

A more mainstream definition is that “War is a conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation...”

Are Police Officers Warriors?
You may be wondering at this point why we are talking about this issue in the first place. The purpose is to examine why the title of a law enforcement-oriented column would have the word “warrior” in it. If you have read previous columns, you know the concept of an “Ethical Warrior” was adapted from the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Marines, of course, are warriors. Well, some of them.

But, are police officers warriors? Look again at the definition above, especially the part that says: “between parties within a nation.” That would seem to make police officers eligible to be called warriors. Webster’s Dictionary has yet another definition of warrior as “a man experienced or engaged in warfare; a fighting man.” We may not be in a physical confrontation every day, but we are trained and prepared to fight. That would also seem to make police officers warriors.

But, several of our readers have objected to the term “warrior” being applied to law enforcement officers. This perspective is often based on a legitimate concern about the militarization of law enforcement.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who think that anyone who faces adversity of any kind is a warrior. For example, the local football team in our area is called the Warriors, as is a professional basketball team in California. Are they really warriors?

And how about this that we just yanked off the Internet: Inner Warrior. “The Way of the Inner Warrior is a personal training for individuals who are willing and able to begin living a life dedicated to the evolution of their spirit.”

Huh? Clearly, there is plenty of confusion about who is, and who is not, a warrior.

So, what does the Ethical Warrior say?

All About Protection
Warriors are persons who risk life and limb to protect their countries, communities, families and friends: in short, they protect others. We believe a warrior is a protector of all life — including the lives of criminals and enemies — if possible.

If you ask cops why they signed up for the job, they might say, “to put criminals in jail.” However, while the criminal justice system imposes penalties on convicted law breakers, the practical effect of the entire system is protection. The penalties protect individuals and society from further criminal actions, and can even protect the criminal by providing the opportunity for rehabilitation and redemption.

So, do protector and warrior mean the same thing? Yes, for the most part, but there is one important distinction. Almost everyone will fight to protect their loved ones. Many people will fight to protect an innocent stranger — especially if there is no other choice.

Law enforcement officers, however, make a conscious decision to dedicate their life to protecting others, all others if possible, anywhere, anytime. We think this voluntary commitment deserves a title reserved for the most noble of all protectors: warrior.

The Ethical Protector
Are other citizen protectors — such as paramedics, firefighters, and emergency room doctors and nurses — warriors? They certainly are often heroes, but there is one important distinction: although they may risk their own lives to save others, rarely are they required to kill to protect life. The paradoxical-sounding statement “warriors kill to protect life” is the key. There is no more physically, mentally or spiritually dangerous act a person can perform than to kill another human being. Yet, killing to protect life is a moral act. It is the job of the Ethical Warrior.

The term “Ethical Warrior,” is a concept — not a person. The authors would never refer to themselves as Ethical Warriors. Jack is a Marine and Bruce is an FBI agent. But we both view ourselves as protectors and train to be physically, mentally and philosophically prepared to do the job of an Ethical Warrior — if necessary.

So, should we rename our column The Ethical Protector or should we leave it The Ethical Warrior?

What do you think? We would appreciate your opinions and comments. Finally, whether you see yourself as a warrior or protector, we salute you for making everyone safer because of your presence.

Jack E. Hoban is president of Resolution Group International, subject matter expert for Combatives and Warrior Ethics for the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, and trains police officers in de-escalation skills.

Bruce J. Gourlie is a former U.S. Army infantry officer, a retired FBI Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge for Intelligence and currently the director of security in a large healthcare system.

Correspondence can be sent to both authors by emailing Hoban & Gourlie.