Military “Police”?

Sadie suggests an interesting issue that I haven’t seen discussed much.  What do you think?


Posse Comitatus

Good idea?  Bad idea? The author of the article calls it: imposing Martial Law. Would you use it? When?

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  • Danny Lemieux

    OK, now I am really very worried. This is a VERY BAD IDEA that armed forces under the command of the President can be used in domestic enforcement.

    Many people don’t realize that the reason that Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina was delayed was due to the Posse Comitatus act – he could not send in the military to provide relief until Governor Blanco OK’d it. Blanco, a die-hard Bush hater, refused to allow Bush to act until the disaster was well underway. The Navy did move a hospital ship offshore in the wake of the hurricane.

  • jj

    Very bad idea, and just as un-constitutional as Obama-care.  Are even Ginsburg, Souter and Cinco de Morono capable of recognizing the obvious?  Ah – now we’re on trickier ground.
    O f course it’s a bad idea, of course it’s illegal.  It’s illegal not to produce a federal budget, too.  Do any democrats give a s*** about either the Constitution or the law?  Not when it inconveniences them, and they seem to get away with it.  I don’t know why – but they do.

  • Ymarsakar

    I get exactly what this would feel like.

    Somebody has been spying on me on this website and forwarding their reports to the interested parties. It just feels like Martial Law and military police, at least.

     It’s like Obama is looking over your shoulder because he’s got agents feeding him info on nut brigade militant rightists or something.

  • JKB

    This seems a lot about nothing.  Posse Comitatus is the right of the sheriff to enlist citizens to enforce local law.  The Posse Comitatus Act put a stop to sheriffs in the occupied South from forcing the local federal troops into acting as his posse.  It also prevented commanders from permitting  their troops from being used.  In the interim, there are agreements that permit military members to provide non-sworn officer duties to law enforcement, i.e., surveillance of the border, traffic control, etc.  You must also remember that if an action is likely to involve a lot of military members, the MPs are likely to participate taking charge of military members not arrested under civil law or simply permitted, say in the case of public drunkenness.  

    So unless military members are enforcing civilian law under deputization by the local sheriff, there is likely not a posse comitatus act violation.  Non-police function assistance would need to be approved by the level of command able to allocate resources for non-DoD activities.  

    But yes, they have been using military forces more than before but unless they are under the command of the local sheriff they aren’t posse comitatus.  If they are enforcing military orders on civilian population, then by definition that is martial law. 

    It is all a bit confusing.  Such as, US Coast Guard is a law enforcement agency.  I believe Petty Officers and above have law enforcement authority.  But sometimes they operate from Navy ships, in which case, by agreement, for the boarding the ship is placed under the authority of the senior USCG member aboard. 

  • hiraethin

    Legality aside, martial law should only be used when the harm it inflicts is less than that it is preventing. It should only be used when both of the following apply: (1) local law enforcement has broken down entirely; (2) there is a significant risk to life or property caused by unrestrained crime and/or disorder. 
    In cases such as the one described, where there is a significant military law enforcement capacity on a base and civilian law enforcement off base, but nearby, requires assistance, I see no problem with the military assisting in a purely subordinate response role. If however there is an ongoing shortage of civilian law enforcement resources, it is the responsibility of the local government to either fix it or seek help from the broader region; and it is the responsibility of the base commander to maintain pressure for such a fix to be implemented. Law enforcement operations over civilian jurisdictions have a negative effect both on the military forces detailed to conduct them, and on the civilians residing there.