Soldier Cops Are Giving Games Like Battlefield An Image Problem

Soldier Cops Are Giving Games Like Battlefield An Image Problem

Let's take a look at a few things.

Soldier Cops Are Giving Games Like Battlefield An Image Problem

These men are not soldiers, they are police. This is not Baghdad, it is the United States. (image: NYT)

These tear gas rounds are being fired into the yards of protestors.

Soldier Cops Are Giving Games Like Battlefield An Image Problem

These are not soldiers either. (image: AP)

The above images and video were tall taken in Ferguson, Missouri this week, as protests rock the town in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed teenager. More notable than the protests themselves, however, has been the police response, which as you can see, has been on the heavy-handed side.

Paul Szoldra, a former US Marine and combat veteran of Afghanistan, has written for Business Insider on the turmoil, pointing out just how heavy-handed the response has been (he references the images at the top of this post).

In photos taken on Monday, we are shown a heavily armed SWAT team.

They have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armour, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each.

Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier's if it weren't for their "Police" patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP.

Perhaps the saddest part of Szoldra's report comes from a tweet he received from a veteran of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, who said "We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone."

But this isn't a warzone. It's a small town of 21,000 people. An American town.

Into a world where Ferguson has now happened, where people around the world are confused and outraged at this type of police appearance and presence, EA is going to release a video game about heavily-armed police blowin' shit up on the streets of the USA.

Soldier Cops Are Giving Games Like Battlefield An Image Problem

Nathan wrote about people's concerns (and EA's responses) with Battlefield Hardline's subject matter earlier this year, but that was a piece inhabiting a vacant plot of the media and cultural landscape, where the only thing present were those concerns. Now, we have some reality to sit alongside them.

Sure, you could argue, it's not a good look, but this is happening now, and that game isn't out until 2015. It might all blow over by then!

But it won't. This is not the last time events like this are going to transpire. We're not talking your standard SWAT level of gear here. The United States is being flooded with military hardware returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - as detailed in this excellent New York Times report - and police forces are the beneficiaries of much of it, taking stock of vehicles and weapons that were designed to fight wars, not police streets.

And for all its economic, political and military might, the United States is a nation beset by fundamental social problems, some of them stemming from race, many of them stemming from an increasing divide between the rich and poor.

What we're seeing here isn't some isolated one-off. It's simply the first time a geared-up local police has had a chance to take its new toys for a test run. There will be more weeks like this. And each time it happens, it will make a game where the soldier cop is front and centre look a little less tasteful.

So what are EA to do? Well, there's not much they can do, or to be honest anyone should ask them to with regards to Hardline. The game was announced months ago and is well on its way to being completed. It's going to be out next year, and while the subject matter is a little weird for a series that's previously been exclusively about the armed forces, millions of others will not give two shits and will buy it because it's about men with guns and because it has the word "Battlefield" on the box.

Let's not pretend EA's game is about antagonizing civilians, either. It's about catching heavily-armed criminals (or, well, shooting them to death).

What I'd hope EA do, however, and this goes for all video game publishers, is to take the subject matter a little more seriously next time they want to approach it. There's a deeply unsavory element to casting police as assault rifle-toting warriors, one that in the wake of Ferguson - and its inevitable successors - video game companies would do well to remember and be a little more careful with.

Because now that we've seen it in action, there's little heroism or admiration to be found in police cosplaying as combat soldiers, pointing military rifles at the people they're meant to serve and protect.


    Nice article. Where are all the people who usually complain about you not writing anything?

      Biting their fingers (as opposed to biting their tongues)?

      As I've said *many* times in the past, when Plunkett puts in the effort, he can pull off excellent articles almost coming up to Mark Serrels quality. Unfortunately most of the time his articles are just hackneyed stuff. Sorry but you don't win the internets for getting all huffy and provocative over one article? He's not as bad as Tina Amini or Georgio Vas at all, as he puts out some great stuff occasionally, it's just a pity its mired down by regular cut and paste rubbish.

        They have explained this already here and in many other aggregate blogging sites. Researching, interviewing, redacting, writing and editing an article like this takes days. Bloggers are paid by traffic, so every day they're busy creating a "good article" they are NOT being paid and there's no guarantee that the traffic created for that article will make up for days' worth of salary. This is bad for the website as well, as in a world of rapid-firing content, extended "news" downtime is a death sentence. The solution? Create articles that take 10 minutes to research (find in the Internet), write and publish that will keep some traffic trickling in until the release of the feature articles.

          Check out some Tina Amini articles or Georgio Vas articles sometime, they may be paid by the traffic, true, but how do you build that? Do you continually throw crap up or like say Serrels, do you consistently put up quality stuff with a few fluff pieces here and there? When your fluff outweighs your quality you have a major problem and when your *crap* outweights your fluff which itself outweighs your quality again, you have an even bigger one. I've worked for a movie website in the past where we had the same issue, I had to get up at 1, 2 or 3 in the morning to converse with LA, or 4 to converse with NYC, dependant on when the interview was. Sometimes it was quality, sometimes it wasn't. I'd have to bust arse to get something up and running. Because it was my *job* to do so.

          But I'd never just resort to crap.

          Last edited 14/08/14 1:09 pm

            Fair enough. However, I'd argue that Serrels, as the man on top can take the time to make most of his articles good, safe in the knowledge that the other authors will be filling in with both feature articles and fluff. Hell, he /has to/ because we'd expect it from him.

            I agree that efforts must be made to ensure that your "fluff" is not "crap", but really, there are not that many truly newsworthy things happening out there, especially when there are dozens of authors to spread them around. Sometimes, the bottom of the barrel will need to be scraped.

            Last edited 14/08/14 2:48 pm

              That's the thing though, when you resort to crap, when you're scraping the bottom of the barrel, don't be surprised when your talkbacks and traffic go against you.

                Yeah, if I was writing articles I'd never resort to crap.

                *hint hint*

          That's how a lot of the things in the real world work.
          They get paid to make articles that generate traffic - a link to a picture, that's on the homepage, with a sentence under it is not an article, and it's not what people expect when they click to read it.

          The only reason this 'strategy' works at generating traffic is because it is misleading. And that is why people complain.

      They find these articles too long to bother to reply to

      Obviously not complaining, because he actually wrote something.

    Maybe EA made the game because they realized that the police force seem to be better geared than the military.

    +1 vote for an end of map segment where if the police win and are able to pepper spray detained suspects.

    Corporate America (or rather its agent, the Federal Government) has to be prepared for the day its 99% realise they've become serfs. Very scary stuff.

    hmm having been someone who studied law enforcement and eventually ended up living in the US- I feel some conflict on this.
    I got pulled over for speeding in Seattle. The policeman pulled me over- turned his vehicle slightly askew. His partner stood behind the protection of the car, meanwhile the driver drew his weapon and kept it low- and approached from my shoulder side. He peered over my shoulder (where my mobility to do anything against him was minimal), and then once he'd determined the threat was low- then communicated with me and issued me my fine.
    Why the apparent over the top response to a trivial event?
    Because the dude wants to go home to his family alive. It's a job.
    In a country where there are laws permitting citizens to both own- and potentially carry firearms he'd be mad not to.
    When I look at these pictures- it reminds me of Las Vegas- mid 90's. The LVPD used ex-Gulf War armoured personel carriers because outside of the strip it was a really rough place. Offenders would use gaps in brick walls to shoot at the police as they passed by in patrol cars.

    I wonder in these pictures- is the problem that these guys are so heavily armed? or is the real problem actually that the threat against their safety is so bad that they have to be well armed to get home to their families.

    Last edited 14/08/14 12:10 pm

      I cannot stand Lukes articles. Thank you for adding a little balance.

      Luke should stick to writing click-bait articles on a online video game blog instead of making misunderstood, narrow-minded commentary like this.

      Perhaps they should adopt a shoot if shot at policy... I'm all for them getting home to their families, but shooting and tear gassing non-violent protesters standing on their own property is an overreaction.

      Unarmed boy is shot in the back twice, then lays on the ground pleading to not get shot some more. Policeman shoots him a bunch more.

      In response, the community stages a large, but peaceful protest in their own neighbourhood, specifically putting their hands in the air as a symbolic gesture that they, like the now dead boy, are unarmed.

      The police respond with immediate violence and enforce a no-fly zone over the area. They arrest media representatives, they fire tear gas at media representatives. They specifically lock down all media in the area and physically barricade all roads so that nobody can go in or out of the town.

      This is a militarised zone. This entire area is now at war and the warring factions are a few hundred incredibly well armed police and a whole bunch of civilians who are mad because some poor kid was brutally murdered for the crime of walking down the street whilst black.

      I'll be honest. I'm not torn at all. Fuck this whole situation. It's goddamn disgusting.

    And for all its economic, political and military might, the United States is a nation beset by fundamental social problems, some of them stemming from race, many of them stemming from an increasing divide between the rich and poor

    That's the issue right there. This kind of escalating militarization of the police is attempting to keep a lid on the symptoms because that's easier (or at least more convenient for the wealthy and powerful) than addressing the underlying causes that lead to these incidents in the first place.

    Last edited 14/08/14 12:19 pm

    Funny thing is, the military can't use tear gas because its classed as a chemical weapon, however it is perfectly legal for a police force to use it.

      Military can't use hollow point ammunition either while it's the main ammunition of most police forces around the world, such as ours. While I don't advocate using tear gas on civilians, a little context does go a long way.
      Why hollow points aren't allowed but explosives are is beyond me, but then war doesn't really make much sense.

        Hollow points are probably specifically ruled out under one of the conventions that we are signatories to. Besides, in war, you want to wound, not kill. On home soil, we make our own rules.

        Not sure how old everyone here is, but I distinctly remember when they upgraded from their standard copper-jacket 9mm to the hollow point .40s. There was a lot of talk about it and a lot of debate over the kind of damage done when someone is hit with a .40 hollow point. In the end it was passed because police should be discharging a firearm as a last resort. If they need to draw and fire, someone is going to die. Better for it to be a person trying to kill a civilian or officer, than the civilian or officer themselves.

        This all came about because of a guy who was jakced up on PCP running around on Bondi beach with a knife in 1995. It took something like 9 rounds to centre-mass to put him down. That's an unacceptable risk, so they upgraded ewveryone to the hand cannons we see today.

          Oh yeah I know why we allow hollow points, and why it's not allowed in war, I just don't understand how they then justify explosives that are clearly more deadly than hollow points. I'm all for police using hollow points though.

        The usual reason given when Police are issued with hollow points is because they are far less likely to penetrate through a thin wall (or a person) and accidentally hit a someone behind.

    Perhaps the saddest part of Szoldra’s report comes from a tweet he received from a veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, who said “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.” But this isn’t a warzone. It’s a small town of 21,000 people. An American town.

    In fairness... it's America. Thanks to fanatical gun-culture-worship, there's probably more ordinance in a small US town than your average modern warzone.

    I've been following this for the past few days with some USA friends. For the record, the above police presence is in reaction to widespread looting, rioting, assaults. Stores set on fire and completely looted, etc.

      The police murder a man for the crime of standing still while black, peaceful protestors show up to say that's really not on, the cops tear gas entire neighbourhoods, shoot the protestors with wooden slugs, rubber pellets, stand on top of an APC shouting at people to leave the area or be arrested and then actually tell them in the next breath that their right to peaceful assembly isn't being restricted, they deploy comm jammers to disrupt mobile communications, arrest journalists... This has nothing to do with looting. There's been a bit and that's an excuse that's being trumped up as much as possible to justify what is nothing short of a totalitarian crackdown

    You know its photos like these that makes you wonder about the whole right to bear arms and regulated Militia thing making a bit more sense.

      Nope, still doesn't.

        If, 20 years ago, America had brought in the same gun laws as us in Australia? These pictures would be very different I think. He has a point.

          It doesn't make sense and it still doesn't regardless of all of that, because it's a fucked up, ridiculous situation in the most narcissistic, self destructive country on earth intent on wiping itself out with stupid laws. The citizens off themselves in record numbers, the cops try to help, but then there's a bad element in them too exacerbating the situation, they're a boiling pot waiting to tip over again in a big way. *sigh* Sometimes it'd be easier for that country to just not exist hey?

    It's a sad irony that the "right to bear arms" is to ensure the government can't oppress the citizens... which is causing the police to militarise, and effectively oppress the citizens to maintain order.

      The abuse of the law by citizens of the country has directly led to this. It's easy to say 'the police did this' but it's simply not true. Citizen on citizen violence is the predominant form of gun violence it's what has led to this unfortunate (and highly over reactive) situation.

      Last edited 14/08/14 1:37 pm

    The US police have become increasingly militarised. I don't have a source but I read about the number of times the SWAT teams are deployed, its gone up several orders of magnitude while overall crime/violence has dropped.

    Example: Police get a tip about someone they are looking for. He had been selling drugs. SWAT roll up, storm the house, flash bangs and all, throwing people on the floor. The dude wasn't even there. One of the flash bangs landed in a crib and went off on a baby's chest. They threw the mother on the floor and threatened to shoot her when she wanted to get to her baby.

    Shit like this is happening all the time now. It's time to reel it in.

      Yep heard about the flashbang on the kid, was unbelievable. Something truly needs to be done with the stupidity going on.

      I remember a case a few years ago where, during a no knock raid, they shot a former marine. Now, he had a gun, and the police couldn't know that it was on safe when they shot him, but that wasn't the issue. The issue was that they left him to bleed out, preventing paramedics from reaching him until it was too late, and then claimed that they had come in shouting @[email protected] and with sirens on. The neighbours heard and saw nothing of the sort. I don't think anyone was actually punished for that whole incident.

        Yep I remember that, IIRC his wife heard a noise while they were asleep at night so he got up and grabbed his rifle because he could see/hear shadowy figures outside the house. They busted the door down with no warning, so naturally he pointed the gun at the figures clad in black breaking into his house, so they shot him. Wasn't even the right house.

        Last edited 14/08/14 11:42 pm

          Exact same thing happened to a grandmother too I believe. No knock raid. She was shot after firing at the intruders in her house.

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