Kiwi Polemicist

December 20, 2008

Military police on the highways of America (Part 1)

In earlier posts I have written about a political candidate’s suggestion that the army assist the police in New Zealand, and about the police carrying guns unnecessarily. How long before we see what is happening in the US, where the United States Marine Corps is putting military policemen into drink driving checkpoints (in and of themselves a breach of civil liberties) ostensibly run by civilian policemen?

The Posse Comitatus Act prevents military troops being used for law enforcement without the approval of Congress, so these statist thugs will just be there as observers, but even that has been deemed illegal by at least one lawyer. Supposedly the military police will be watching for military staff who are under their jurisdiction. But what will happen if a civilian cop is attacked? Are the military police going to stand back, re-read the Posse Comitiatus Act, and take bets on who gets shot first? No, they’re going to jump in, and my understanding is that that is a clear breach of the law.

The Posse Comitatus Act says

Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

I’m not legally trained, but on a plain-English reading of this having military police at check points could constitute execution of the law because they are providing intimidation in support of the civilian police. As I say, there is at least one legal opinion saying that this is unconstitutional and illegal.

Let’s put aside the legal issues and consider the effects on people. Imagine that you get pulled over at a check point and breathalysed. You also see soldiers in uniform, and you are quite shocked. You’re certainly not going to try anything shifty when there are soldiers around. This scenario repeats itself every time you get stopped at a check point until you get used to seeing soldiers on the street. Then one day the President declares yet another security alert and deploys his 20,000-strong military force created for domestic security. The threat was made against shopping malls, so now every time you go shopping you’re searched by the army and have to provide ID before you can go into the mall. Of course, this martial-law-in-all-but-name is for your own good, and you’re used to seeing soldiers on the street so you soon get used to it.

What do you think about the use of military police on public roads?


See also Part 2 and Part 3.


Note the handcuffs.


They’ve had plenty of practise in Iraq.

US soldiers at a vehicle check point in Iraq

Hat tip: Lew Rockwell



  1. I posted this on Kiwiblog on september 26 and here’s ametafilter post on the Active Army unit to be stationed within US.

    Comment by cha — December 20, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

  2. […] police on the highways of America (Part 2) You may have read my previous post about the possibility of martial law in the United States and thought that it was a bit […]

    Pingback by Military police on the highways of America (Part 2) « Kiwi Polemicist — December 22, 2008 @ 2:30 am

  3. […] and add heat it won’t realise what is happening. That is why we see the government putting military police at drink-driving checkpoints and creating a 20,000-strong military force for domestic security :it’s the […]

    Pingback by Military police on the highways of America (Part 3) « Kiwi Polemicist — December 23, 2008 @ 2:08 am

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