An Honest Question About Posse Comitatus...

This is a discussion on An Honest Question About Posse Comitatus... within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; This is a serious question, so please don't flame me. With Posse Comitatus supposedly prohibiting deploying US troops for LE purposes, I have to ask ...

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Thread: An Honest Question About Posse Comitatus...

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    Senior Member Array agentmel's Avatar
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    An Honest Question About Posse Comitatus...

    This is a serious question, so please don't flame me.

    With Posse Comitatus supposedly prohibiting deploying US troops for LE purposes, I have to ask what is the difference?

    This...


    Doesn't look a whole lot different from...


    So, is it just Orwellian doublespeak or is there really some fundamental difference between the two?

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    VIP Member Array Paco's Avatar
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    I think it has to do with numbers. If the government wanted to rush out and over throw the public they could do so very easily with the military where as with the LEO forces it would be more difficult to do.

    That is only my opinion, there are many like it but this opinion is mine.
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    The difference is 'who' they answer to. The military is hundreds of thousands of people strong answering to ONE Commander and Chief. Where as police and national guard are smaller forces - add all of them together, (I don't know what their numbers would be) but they are all answering to different people. So there isn't too much power in the hands of one individual.
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    The Posse Comatatis Act of 1887, delineates the roll of the military in regards to Civilian Law Enforcement. The Army, thus also the AF cannot be used for civilian law enforcement. Remember in MS when the civil rights workers were murdered and buried in an earthern dam - the Navy was utilized to search for them - the Navy is not covered by the act. The only way the Army and AF can be used is with the implementation of Martial Law and that would have to go thru congress.
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    Concerning the OP's two original pictures...

    I would be concerned if either group were on my front lawn.
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    The above posters are correct. Another example is that the state National Guard answers to (and is deployed on order by) the state governor. There are exceptions though: natural disasters, civil disturbances and the Stafford act, used extensively here in Florida in 2004 due to the hurricanes.


    There is a feeling the PC act is moving away from it's orignal intent. A good discussion is located here: The Myth of Posse Comitatus


    A short clip: The use of the military in opposing drug smuggling and illegal immigration was a significant step away from the act’s central tenet that there was no proper role for the military in the direct enforcement of the laws. The legislative history explains that this new policy is consistent with the Posse Comitatus Act, as the military involvement still amounted to an indirect and logistical support of civilian law enforcement and not direct enforcement.[9]

    The weakness of the analysis of passive versus direct involvement in law enforcement was most graphically demonstrated in the tragic 1999 shooting of a shepherd by marines who had been assigned a mission to interdict smuggling and illegal immigration in the remote Southwest. An investigation revealed that for some inexplicable reason the 16-year-old shepherd fired his weapon in the direction of the marines. Return fire killed the boy. This tragedy demonstrates that when armed troops are placed in a position where they are being asked to counter potential criminal activity, it is a mere semantic exercise to argue that the military is being used in a passive support role. The fact that armed military troops were placed in a position with the mere possibility that they would have to use force to subdue civilian criminal activity reflects a significant policy shift by the executive branch away from the posse comitatus doctrine.

    Congress has also approved the use of the military in civilian law enforcement through the Civil Disturbance Statutes: 10 U.S.C., sections 331–334. These provisions permit the president to use military personnel to enforce civilian laws where the state has requested assistance or is unable to protect civil rights and property. In case of civil disturbance, the president must first give an order for the offenders to disperse. If the order is not obeyed, the president may then authorize military forces to make arrests and restore order. The scope of the Civil Disturbance Statutes is sufficiently broad to encompass civil disturbance resulting from terrorist or other criminal activity. It was these provisions that were relied upon to restore order using active-duty Army personnel following the Los Angeles “race riots” of the early 1990s.

    Federal military personnel may also be used pursuant to the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C., section 5121, in times of natural disaster upon request from a state governor. In such an instance, the Stafford Act permits the president to declare a major disaster and send in military forces on an emergency basis for up to ten days to preserve life and property. While the Stafford Act authority is still subject to the criteria of active versus passive, it represents a significant exception to the Posse Comitatus Act’s underlying principle that the military is not a domestic police force auxiliary.

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    Analyzing a legal situation by what clothes people are wearing isn't very productive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AgentX View Post
    Analyzing a legal situation by what clothes people are wearing isn't very productive.
    I'd tend to agree. The chin-weld for those EOThings must suck.


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    i few things make the differance. as was already stated manpower and accountability are big things. also there is the consideration of firepower. i seriously doubt your local or state police have 105MM howitzers, B52 bombers, or anything bigger than what the UN classifies as small arms.

    as for the OP's pictures i'd only be concerned seing the bottom group on my lawn. the top group i'd bring a case of beer to and swap war stories with cause they're probley there for the BBQ.
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    There is a huge difference.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    There is a huge difference.
    Such as?

    (I agree. Just want to hear your take on it.)
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    I almost want to say that it's so obvious that if you have to ask, you'll never know...but...

    The military kills people and breaks things en masse. Locates, closes with, and destroys the enemy by fire and maneuver and repels enemy assaults by fire and close combat. All other things in the military--logistical support, internal law enforcement, etc., support that end. Modern warfare may require the training of supplementary skills and missions, especially low-intensity type conflict, but that's a sideshow compared to the military's ultimate function. However, this training and these tasks may lend a law-enforcement appearance to the military at some times.

    The police are there to enforce the law. This may mean being prepared to, or at times proceeding to, kill people and break things towards that end. Because you see a 6-man SWAT stack wearing gear similar to what the military wears doesn't mean that a police unit is training to take a hostile objective with a platoon-sized supported attack. Even though on an individual level, the cops some of you fear/loathe might appear similar to a member of the military when equipped for a specific task, their organization, structure, training, and equipment (not to mention mission and purpose...) are so far different from the military's as to make the comparison totally inane.

    The military and cops share equipment and certain skills--usually revolving around the application of violence--because their jobs both demand it. But just because the local SWAT team has some scary black rifles and an armored breaching car doesn't mean they're training to be an armored cavalry unit.

    Some people here apparently see no issue with being themselves prepared to deal with an unlikely, but possible, level of violence directed against their own persons, but don't like it when the police prepare in a similar fashion. Or, at least don't like the way they look while doing it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by miklcolt45 View Post
    Such as?

    (I agree. Just want to hear your take on it.)

    Just read AgentX's post. I'll just add that a police force is not an occupying force protecting the governments interests. A police force enforces the law to protect the publics interest.
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    Just to play devil's advocate

    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    Just read AgentX's post. I'll just add that a police force is not an occupying force protecting the governments interests. A police force enforces the law to protect the publics interest.
    Just to play devil's advocate, there is no inherent reason why a military force can not "enforce the law to protect the publics interest." Notwithstanding PC--

    Indeed we saw this in two 1950s episodes when notwithstanding the provisions of PC (if they applied at all, not sure) President Eisenhower used Federal troops and Federalized national guard to enforce court orders in Arkansas and in Mississippi.

    More recently, our government gave the appearance of using the military to police our airports while TSA was being brought up to speed after 9/11. There were guardsmen at every gate. If there were truly a solid terror threat against something in my town and the military was readily available to protect, I'd not be too concerned about the niceties.

    This is complicated stuff. There are lots of different facets to the issue, and pragmatic real world considerations. We don't want some general deciding to play cop in the local town. We don't want generals deciding to arrest Congress Critters, Governors, and so on, but we shouldn't deprive ourselves of manpower in urgent or emergent situations either.

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    Senior Member Array agentmel's Avatar
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    Ok, some good replies here.

    It makes sense that the major factor isn't clothing, or even weapons, although having howitzers makes massive damage possible. I think the most illuminating differences have to do with local vs. national command and accountability. And while I think most cops and troops are decent folks, I fear the "just follow orders" mentality that was drilled into me during my days in the Navy. I was never encouraged to question orders and often found myself being grilled for doing so.

    That said, I don't think we have much to fear from the majority of police or military people.

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