In North Carolina’s Richland County, things are going to be a “little noisy,” according to Sheriff Leon Lott. On Monday and Tuesday deputies will be conducting a joint, secret exercise with unidentified units from Ft. Bragg.
Three locations have been identified as the focus of the secret operation. The exercises are expected to continue as late as midnight on both days.
While the sheriff has jurisdiction over the county, joint exercises between the military and civilian police forces are exactly the type of thing that causes concern among many who fear the abuse of power by their own government.
Employing a branch of the military for the purpose of domestic policing was outlawed under posse comitatus. Training exercises, while not illegal, involve the same participants to what could be an illegal concentration of armed force.
Ft. Bragg is home to some of the U.S. Army’s elite fighting groups, including Special Forces, aviation support and airborne units. The Army’s Delta Force is also at Ft. Bragg.
These units are known as being some of the most loyal to their oaths of office and most respectful of our constitutional protections. Still, the secret nature of event does raise some eyebrows.
The media was specifically told by a sheriff’s department spokesperson on Sunday that they will not be permitted to “view or participate” in the exercise.
The sheriff’s department authored a press release which stated, “Citizens may see military and departmental vehicles traveling in and around rural and metropolitan areas and may hear ordinance being set off or fired which will be simulated/ blanks and controlled by trained personnel.”
It continued, saying, “Due to Sheriff Leon Lott’s longstanding commitment to making sure that deputies are trained and prepared for every event and potential threat and his desire to assist the military to ensure their preparations;” the joint exercise is being held.
It’s unfortunate that the sheriff doesn’t also have a longstanding commitment to respecting the rights of the citizens of his county to know what their peace officers and military are up to in regards to domestic policing by the military.
The argument that this type of exercise is done all over the country, in other jurisdictions, has no bearing on the legality or wisdom of training military and domestic police forces in joint operations. They are in essence training to participate in what could ultimately be unlawful acts, in violation of posse comitatus.
A better use of resources, and one that would be in compliance with the laws of the United States, might be to have our state National Guard units at home and available. If military action is needed overseas, the military should be the ones to conduct it. Then they should come home as well.
The public safety, pursuit of happiness and Bill of Rights don’t have to exist as adversarial propositions. Perhaps some training should not take place, or at a minimum, not take place in secret.