The Posse Comitatus Act Of 1878

899 words - 4 pages

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 was a federal law enacted by congress in 1878 to restrict the federal governments from utilizing the Air Force and Army powers in civil law enforcement functions. The law ensures that civilian police agencies are directly responsible for all law enforcement functions in the United States, and the Armed Forces are responsible for fighting American wars abroad. The military can only be used as law enforcement in America if it specifically authorized.
The Posse Comitatus Act was enacted in 1878 to remove federal troops from Southern territories after the Civil War. The US Army troops were stationed in the South during the reconstruction following the Civil War. ”The posse comitatus (from which the term posse derives) is the power or force of the county, and refers to citizens above the age of 15, who may be summoned by a sheriff to enforce the law." The Posse Comitatus Act specifically prohibited the Army from acting in the manner of civilian law enforcement. The other Armed Forces were added to Posse Comitatus under Department of Defense Directives. Department of Defense is overall in charge of all military and has the ability to write instructions and regulations that cover all branches. Violations of the act would be anything considered a law enforcement function such as surveillance of a civilian, search of property, or an arrest. Any person who disregards the act and uses military force can be fined and face confinement for up to two years in prison. The law does not apply to the National Guard because the National Guard is controlled by each state.
The Posse Comitatus act (PCA) applies to active duty military, reservists on active duty, reservists on inactive duty for training, Department of Defense employees. The PCA does not apply to military personnel that are in an off duty status and serving in a personal capacity. I have volunteered my off duty time training law enforcement agencies in training evolutions. Several military personnel that chose to become a reserve police officer when they are off work from military duties. A reserve police officer is an officer that has all training requirements for that agency and works for the civilian law enforcement agency part time. Military can be called to assist in domestic matters in several instances. Title 32 Section 501 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) states instances in which the military can assist civil authorities during civil disturbances. The military will only be used when state and local authorities have become overwhelmed and can not control the situation. The military may assist once the order has been issued by the Secretary of Defense and the President of the United States. "The Secretary of the...

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