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Posse Comitatus Revisited: The Use of the Military in Civil Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 15 Issue: 5 Dated: (1987) Pages: 375-386
R H Moore
Date Published
12 pages
The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which removed the military from regular civil law enforcement, was enacted in response to the abuses resulting from the extensive use of the army in civil law enforcement during the Civil War and the Reconstruction. The Act allows legislated exceptions.
Congress, by legislation, has allowed the use of the military in cases of domestic violence, protection of Federal property, and enforcement of some Federal laws and court orders. The growing drug problem in the United States and the inability of Federal and local law enforcement officials to meet the challenge of massive drug inflow led Congress in 1981 to enact legislation providing for military cooperation with civilian law enforcement officials. Although recognizing the Posse Comitatus restrictions, the law opens the door for extensive use of the military in civilian law enforcement. The military has been slow to respond because it does not wish to become embroiled in civilian law enforcement, and there are questions concerning funding. Further, the military does not want to have its readiness capability impaired by diverting resources toward civilian law enforcement. The Department of Defense has developed directives to provide types of direct and indirect assistance to civilian law enforcement agencies. Currently, the military collects information and uses military equipment in tracking violators of the drug laws. Demands for greater military involvement in the war on drugs are being made. Military cooperation with civil law enforcement agencies can be expected to increase. (Author abstract)