Police militarisation in the United States has seen some police forces in the US as heavily armed as army units anyway. So, why can’t the army help out?

Well, the thing is, they actually can, but under very specific and limited circumstances. It’s a common misconception by some that the US Armed forces cannot enforce the law under any circumstances. Under times of insurrection, armed revolt or extreme lawlessness. One example of this was how members of the 1st Marine Division, 7th Infantry Division and the California Army National Guard were drafted in to respond to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. The reason we rarely see the US Army help out with police work is because it is only under very extreme circumstances that they are actually legally allowed to restore order.

Why is it so difficult for the Army to help?

To answer this we have to look at how and why a soldier is trained the way they are compared to a Law Enforcement officer. A soldier is trained primarily to kill or maim to achieve an objective against an enemy of their country. A police officer is trained to maintain the law of their own country within their own country and with their fellow citizen. This means that killing must only be used when theirs or someone else’s life is under real and genuine threat.

From this we can deduce logically that generally a soldier, while still a soldier, cannot possibly understand the doctrine of “reasonable force” because the only force they know how to use is lethal. It therefore seems good sense to restrain military policing unless absolutely necessary. In the United States this is enshrined in the coupling of the Posse Commitatus Act and the Insurrection Act which herein set out the parameters needed for soldiers to be deployed to do police work.

From 2006 to 2007, it was actually a lot easier for the President to make use of the armed forces on US soil. An amendment to the Insurrection Act allowed the President to deploy federal troops in the case of a terrorist attack on domestic soil to restore law and order. However this was repealed the year after as it was seen that it was unnecessarily simple for the President to wield the power of the armed forces.

Why were these laws created?

The foundation of these laws come behind the inherent American fear of a tyrannical executive in control of the US Federal Army. It restricted the President’s ability to deploy US Troops (under the President’s control as Commander-In-Chief) on US Soil to a set of parameters. An example of the legislative branch, driven by a fear of the executive, limiting what it can do.

Furthermore, one element of the restrictions of Posse Comitatus is that for National Guardsmen, called up for active federal duty by the President, or federal US Troops to be deployed onto US soil the permission or request of the relevant state governor is required. Although this is not necessarily true in all cases, if a state is acting unconstitutionally, as was the case during the 1957 Little Rock school crisis, the President can use federal troops to enforce the constitution. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower did with the 101st Airborne Division.

It’s all a little complicated, isn’t it?

Well, yes. Nearly every single restriction of the Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act has exceptions associated with it. But it serves a purpose. It serves the wider idea that the Armed forces of a liberal state should not intervene with Police work as a matter of routine. It serves to ensure that, without a good and proper reason, the executive cannot deploy the armed forces against US citizens. An underlying theme that is sustained across the US Constitution and statute book – that no individual branch should wield too much power without the consent o the other two branches.

What happens if soldiers are deployed illegally?

Well it can be assumed that any President who orders soldiers be deployed in violation of the two acts would be liable for impeachment. In regards to the soldiers, section 15 of the Posse Comitatus Act states:

“any person willfully violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or imprisonment not exceeding two years or by both such fine and imprisonment”

This was applied in 2009 when members of the U.S. Army military Police Corps were deployed to a town in Alabama in response to a murder spree. The Governor of Alabama did not request assistance nor did President Obama authorise their deployment, and as such the soldiers deployed were in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act and received ‘Administrative Actions’ against them.

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The reality here is that in the US, the US Military is bound by the Posse Comitatus Act and The Insurrection Act of 1807 and Can’t deploy Federal Troops unless ordered by the US President. The only exception to the rule is the US Army National Guard and US Air National Guard that are under state Control and the Governor of the state. The only Military branch that is excluded from the Posse Comitatus Act and The Insurrection Act of 1807 is the United States Coast Guard and that is because they are a Dual Federal Law Enforcement and Military… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Well in a terrorist situation the U.S police simply don’t need the army’s help. As we have a finite amount of armed officers, unlike America?

Harry Bulpit

Well in a terrorist situation the U.S police simply don’t need the army’s help. As we have a finite amount of armed officers, unlike America.


The Army do…. it’s called the National Guard!

Bloke down the pub

During the recent bout of statue destruction, a Texan chief of police put out a notice advising that, in Texas, citizens have the right to use firearms to protect third party property, so people destroying memorials shouldn’t expect any further warning. Antifa seem to have heeded the warning.


Because it’s a technicality in the US. I have some American friends who proudly hold it up like it’s some invaluable defense against tyranny until I laugh and point out that their police force is tooled up like special forces and their national guard, who the rule doesn’t apply to, is bigger than most armies.


It’s more than a “technicality” Englishman. The Constitution is the heart of the Republic. It represents everything that is dear to Americans. Since you’re not American, and most likely English, you wouldn’t understand the freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution. Yes, police forces are well armed. We have very dangerous criminals in the US that have to dealt with specialized units, like SWAT. The “tools” they use are just evolutionary, better than what they carried in years past. Civilians can buy the same equipment; body armor, chest rigs, helmets, and yes….GUNS. That’s a real sticking point for you English.… Read more »


I’d say the US police forces are pretty good with lethal force whenever they fancy or if they simply don’t like your skin colour.

The American obsession with guns is beyond retarded. They’re so worried about terrorists but they successfully off each other in record numbers every year.


Perhaps you should provide statistics. The calling police racist may sound good to your friends at university but in the real world. It makes you sound like a sheep waiting to be shorn or slaughtered as case may be. Take your Marxist SJW opinions and put them where the sun doesn’t shine.
Mine and my countrymens obsession of guns is pragmatic. Your obsession with denying the right to self-defense is denying essential liberty.
“Extremism in the name of liberty is never a vice.”- Sen. Barry Goldwater.


Elliott – Whetehr it is racism I don’t know but the fact remains and is proven often that a black person in the USA is 2.5 times more likely to be shot and killed than a white person. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/?utm_term=.8f461841ddfc I hope those statistics are good enough to at least make the point.… Read more »


You do realize that Barry Goldwater was from Arizona and from the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party. So a little hard to make a case for him being a KKK supporting segregationist is a little rich. His opinion on the Civil Rights Act of 64 was that it would lead to quotas, continued racial resentment, and diminishing the independence of both individuals and state governments. Considering he also was throughout his Senatorial career one of the most fervent supporters of NATO. I find it yet again another example of it doesn’t matter how much an American does for Europe… Read more »


Elliott – Goldwater was a racist. Period. And his support for NATO was based on his alliance with the US arms industry more than a love of Europe. So yes I will disrespect him but you of course have to play the victim and distort it to make out its us ‘Europeans’ being disrespectful to ‘MURICAAA’. Goldwater was not America! We realise you Yanks do a lot. But we also know to our cost you do diddley squat that isn’t in your sole interest. Which I actually respect and I wish we were as insular sometimes. Yes we have violent… Read more »


Well aware of the monarchy’s lack of power. You are the one who brought it up. Just as I am aware of the fact you held them up as an example of a non political head of state. Won after those thirty years? With political apparatachiks letting assainsans and murders out of prison. While attempting to imprison the soldiers they themselves or their party’s put in those positions. Allowing the Republic of Ireland through out the Troubles escape any true retribution while supporting terrorist activities at the UN and providing the IRA a safe haven. Allowing political parties whose sole… Read more »


Elliott – You said: “The idea of hereditary political power …” So you are now contradicting yourself in your attempts to extricate from your blunder. Now I know the concept is foreign to an American but we didn’t actually believe bombing the [email protected] out of Dublin, removing their Taoiseach and President and then invading Eire was actually a very constructive way of removing the IRA from the equation. Now if you want a further lecture on the Good Friday Agreement I can surely offer one. I probably have more personal knowledge than you will ever have Old Son so you… Read more »


All I can say is that you Chris are full of ignorance. Ever considered how you can peacefully remove a parliament if it took full Stalinist power and removed all rights of redress? And the Bill of Rights of 1689 cannot be repealed. Elliott has been spot on with his statements.


@ Chris Holy flipping pancakes! Here we go again. Every time guns are brought up you English go apeshit. I swear if you ever go near a gun you’d have a meltdown. Let’s get this out of the way first: Do not lecture Americans on their Constitutional rights. Okay. You English were very good at lecturing Americans so much that we decided to go to war with you and gain our independence. We do whatever the hell we want. If you don’t like it eat shit. Now onto the other BS you wrote. For the record most people killed by… Read more »


“In England you CAN’T own guns for self defense.”

Charles Ortolano III

Elliott……Well Stated, most shootings are not done by the police, its the liberal obozo media that makes it look like it, they make criminals who have engaged the police look like innocent school boys, peoples heads are buried in their ass ! Long live the second Amendment !!!


First of all I must say that I don’t think extremism can be justified in any form, whatever the cause. However I think that something which is overlooked and never questioned is that “America” is always quoted by the press and official organisations as being out of control compared to other countries (for instance the UK) but they never take in to account that the U.S. comprises of 50 states and if we take a look at the E.U. (something akin to the U.S. in its structure) and which has 28 member states, the numbers immediately look somewhat different. In… Read more »


@Be02ese Shut up.


The Posse Comitatus Act which was passed in 1878 and signed by President Hayes was part of the deal that made him president. It was designed to ensure that Reconstruction governments could not be imposed on the southern states by military occupation. In exchange the Southern Democrats would break with the Northern part of the party and make him president. It is not a technicality. It is what keeps a politician from trying to turn the Army into the big green policeman. The NG can’t be called unless under very special circumstances without the permission of their respective states. Yes… Read more »


Elliot, first off I’m not at university. I’m 32. I don’t need to provide stats, the news speaks for itself fella. There is absolutely no reason at all for anyone to own an assault rifle, they also don’t need a semi automatic pistol on their hip to visit the local Target. The reason countries like Japan, UK, Germany and many other don’t have a gun problem is because we don’t just hand them willy nilly at the local Walmart. We actually control and limit gun ownership……therefore we don’t go around shooting each other on a daily basis, and therefore we… Read more »


Had you bothered to read the article or my own comment on the Poss Comitatus Act. Then you would realize any government that sent in quote, “Tanks and stealth bombers”, would have to have the permission of the state government. As the only troops capable of acting in that capacity are the National Guard who belong to their separate states. Barring that the Feds only have federal law enforcement personnel. Which by the way the States have the power to place under arrest if they violate state law. On you being 32. Well then put on your big boy pants… Read more »

David Steeper

People this is a defence site not a political site. If you want to have political rows there isn’t exactly a shortage of places you can go !


David – The comments are entirely in context and actually not political. They are about the different societal and legislative ways the US can enforce their laws rr in the UK ‘Keep the Queen’s Peace’.

The US has a propensity to use guns. We don’t. And that discussion is entirely relevant I would have thought?


If you have a problem with America and guns. What the fuck are you going to do about it?
You shouldn’t say a damn thing about what freedoms Americans have. You have none.

Cecil Colhoun

a lot of people losing the run of themselves here. Every police service is tooled up for any eventuality but most will have the military backup if needed. So as it is, few people in the world are not aware that the US can readily avail of military support for its police services in the event of civil disorder or other emergencies.