previous post next post  

Someone's Career Endangerment light is blinking...

This is really a pretty well written article from CNS News on a recent possible violation of Posse Comitatus, relating to the recent mass murder in Alabama:

Army Investigating How and Why Troops Were Sent Into Alabama Town After Murder Spree

( - The U.S. Army has launched an inquiry into how and why active duty troops from Fort Rucker, Ala., came to be placed on the streets of Samson, Ala., during last week's murder spree in that tiny South Alabama community. The use of the troops was a possible violation of federal law.

Read the article if you want the details, and read the whole article.

But don't go all conspiracy theory here.

Someone, at least at the Fort Rucker garrison level, certainly appears to have screwed the pooch. I don't know if it will go to the level of a courts-martial, but there is probably a career-ending letter of reprimand or admonishment lurking in there somewhere.

It's not unusual for military installations to be involved in multi-jurisdiction mutual assistance pacts, especially when it comes to fire and emergency, and the article lays out the relevant law and regulation pretty well.  But there are supposed to be some bright lines, dating from back in the days of Reconstruction and the Wild West, where local authorities sometimes took it upon themselves to impress Federal troops for their own purposes.

I suspect the town put out a general call for assistance, and someone at the Fort, without thinking it through, responded.  Or, possibly, given who has been tagged to investigate the circumstances, someone at Installation Management Command (IMCOM) headquarters might have given the okay to respond.

According to the article,  General Dempsey at Training and Doctrine Command has been tagged to do the investigation.  IMCOM is commanded by a Lieutenant General, currently LTG Robert Wilson.  The article states that TRADOC owns Fort Rucker, but in fact, the TRADOC activities at Fort Rucker are tenants.  The Garrison Command (to which the MPs belong) belongs to IMCOM. In the normal course of events, IMCOM would be doing the investigating.   I'm just speculating here, but if General Dempsey has the rose for the investigation, I'm thinking it's because possibly the problem with the authorization for the MPs to deploy came through upper level IMCOM channels.  But that's just me speculating.

I don't think, as I've seen elsewhere, that this is another test to see if the population will fail to notice the issue and this becomes one more chink in the Federal construct setting us up for Leviathan.   But I'm a well known squish and apologist for the Imperial Presidency, so who knows?

Occam's razor applies.  I don't think these guys in charge at the moment are capable of conducting planning that subtle.  Any more than I believed it of the Bush administration, when they were credited with being idiot savants.  H/t, Kevin.


I saw this also, and agree with you.  It looks like a well meaning but really bone-headed move from someone who ought to know better.
feh.  Active Duty MPs.

never woulda caught some Reservists falling for that.
I am reminded of April, I think it was, of 1968.  Martin Luther King had been shot.  Fort Carson gathered up about a Brigade's worth of troops and deployed us to...Chicago.  Crowd control with about half of the troops (if my platoon was an example) fresh back from Vietnam.
Oh, and Fort Ord, 1982-5 thry had a bad habit of sending troops out to fight fires, but that's not _police_ duties.
Oh, and Fort Ord, 1982-5 they had a bad habit of sending troops out to fight fires, but that's not _police_ duties.
They're about a week late.

The Fort Rucker PMO inserted himself and 21 MP's in to the shooting aftermath at Samson.  Samson PD did not ask for assistance.  He volunteered and they consented.

Glenn Beck was just talking about this a few minutes ago.
LTC W: //cuts in// the incident took place and all of the local aw enforcement from the state of Alabama responded. It happened in several different cities. It was a very ugly situation. And it was going to be a long, drawn out situation. So, here, in southern Alabama, we have mutual aid agreements with all of our local surrounding communities where they support us when we need help. We support them. We’ve had several natural disasters in the past such as a hurricane and a tornado. And we support each other in times of need. So, when this happened, we called down to one of the local police departments and offered our assistance. And they said, “Absolutely. We could use the military police.” So we went down. And all we did was provide a support role where we went…we took 20 MPs down there. The local law enforcement and the state law enforcement were establishing a cordon and taking care of the area. So we just provided support, went in. And allowed those…the state and local law enforcement folks to go and take a knee and drink water, go and get some food, just rest for a little while. We took their posts for them. And then when they came back, we moved on to other places to see where we could assist.

AJ: So did ah…so the Army contacted the police departments. Was this while the hour-long rampage was going on? Over 20 plus miles? Or did you contact them after they’d already…after he’d already killed himself?

LTC W: Yes, sir. It was after. After the event. When we realized that this was gonna be a major undertaking, then what I did was I called and offered my assistance. And the police chief took me up on it. And we called in the soldiers and drove down there.

Had the PMO or Fort Rucker PAO simply stated that "Fort Rucker Military Police responded to a request for assistance from Geneva County Sheriff's Department under our existing mutual support agreement" there wouldn't have been much controversy.  I suspect Fort Rucker does indeed have a mutual support agreement with Geneva County SD, and I also suspect it doesn't have one with Samson PD, which is what make this affair a possible violation of 18 USC, § 1385. 
Mutual support agreements (in my limited experience) for law enforcement support still require high-level approval before you can segue into going into Law Enforcement activities, and that approval is on a case-by-case basis.

Mere approval of the MSA doesn't count.

Again - things may have changed over the years, since last I was concerned about things like that.
They had a multiple location mass murder on their hands... and a fully-staffed Army base nearby.

Personally, I have no problem with the MP's offering aid.  I understand the whole chain of command/authorization thing, but seriously.... this was a good use of our military.  It's great opportunity to show how the military and the local police can work together effectively, unlike what we saw in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Yeah.  I know.  I'm coming at this from a civilian POV, but that's how I see it.
This is egregious.  There is no small, or misunderstanding bone headed , well intentions, when it comes to the deployment of US Military on civilian streets.

a little small thing called the Law.

I expect at least as much accountability as the Air Force suffered for the Nuke Flight Fiasco.

This is a very big deal.
Whoops apologies for the triple post
Mr T's Haircut!  Clearly, the comment-gnomes were so stunned to see you after all this time...

AFSis - I understand your position - but there's a reason there's a bright line between the Federal military and local officials.  Among them, is the experience that caused the implementation of Posse Comitatus.

I think this is totally unacceptable.  These are MPs too and should know the law quite clearly.  I would be looking for rather severe consequences for the decision makers and wouldn't let the others get off lightly either.  This is the second obvious time soldiers have obeyed an unlawful order in a serious manner (after the prison abuses).  It means the military is likely to obey future unlawful orders which is a systemic problem and a real lead in to the kind of paranoia common in the left and right about government.
This is a big deal because of the whole "slippery slope" thing (no I don't mean that contraption in the Jungle Room).

Of course it sounds good now, no weapons, directing traffic, lending a helping hand, mutual aid, blabbity blah blah.

But you have to look down the road (or down the slope?).  It's scary down there.

No good can come of this and I am very pleased that the Army is treating it seriously with this inquiry.

my apologies to the comment gnomes.  Will try to come round more often! 
If using troops as police is supposed to only occur under very circumstances then why are there uniformed ,armed troops at the World Trade Center site every day? I've also seen them patrolling in the Port Authority bus terminal in NYC.  Just what is going on here?
Jim - I can't answer your question without more information.  If they're National Guard troops in state status, there's no foul.

If they're law enforcement playing dress-up as soldiers, there's no foul, except you don't like the look (which is okay, having a lot of armed troops standing around on street corners gives a banana republic flair, which we don't need).

So, the question is - what are you looking at?
From all the reports, the troops were used strictly as roadguards manning access barricades to allow the local LEA to perform crime scene duties. I've done the same thing in my hometown acting as a private citizen, and so have several of my neighbors -- standing by a barricade and directing traffic away from a crime scene (or a flooded neighborhood) ain't exactly performing Law Enforcement duties.

That said, having uniformed troops on the scene armed with something other than traffic wands looks like poor judgement on LTC Wiley's part.
JimB -- those folks are 42d ID in State Active Duty status. New York Army National Guard, with a sprinkling of LNOs from their counterparts in the Jersey Guard working the bridges and tunnels.