Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Civilian police training with military

I have a high threshold, I'm not the type that sees every urban military exercise or government ammunition buy as precursor to a police state or martial law. But a TV report about a military training exercise just wrapped up at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina raised some questions and concerns in my mind.

According to the report by WNCT, Marines trained as a blended force with civilian police. As one participant noted:
I think it's always good to work on some similar tactics and procedures so that everyone's kind of operating on the same page. That way when you bring teams together from the active duty and the civilian side, it makes the integration a whole lot smoother.
And that had me asking: What kind of situations come up where active duty Marines work as a blended force with civilian cops here in the U.S.?

A newspaper story on the same school says the primary emphasis of the Lejeune program is to train civilian SWAT team members. Police from San Diego, Okinawa, and Albany, NY were among those reported as participating.

And the Jacksonville (NC) Daily News also shared a plausible explanation of where a blended force might be used stateside:
 ...civilian police officers attended the training with the Marines because the civilian officers are often used to provide security and serve on SRT teams on military bases stateside, so that Marine Corps SRT teams can deploy overseas without leaving the stateside bases unprotected.
The explanation seems to fit with places like Okinawa and San Diego. But inserting cops from Albany, NY puzzled me. Any chance Albany cops were really from Albany, Georgia - home to a major Marine Corps Logistics Base?

Still, for many of us, the larger issue of merging military style force and tactics with civilian law enforcement is an area of concern. There's a bunch of us who believe too much focus on force, firepower and military-like tactics (such as no-knock raids) is the wrong approach in most civilian law enforcement applications. And there's rising risk of over-use as local police, facing tighter budgets, attempt to justify the money spent on the required gear and special training by rolling out SRTs and SWAT teams in situations that aren't a good fit.

Post script: I'd appreciate it if readers and listeners would send links to similar news accounts my way. I'd like the chance to dig a little deeper on them while collecting a wider sample of related data points.

Update: More on civilian police training with Marines

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