Defense Support of Civil Authorities: An Examination of Trends Impacting Upon Police Militarization
Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Vol. 23, Issue 1, pp. 89-134, Fall 2016
46 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2017
Date Written: 2016
In recent years, images of United States police wearing helmets and masks, carrying military-style weapons, and riding in armored or even mine-resistant armored vehicles have become increasingly prevalent with media depictions of responses to civil disorder and a purported nationwide trend of police militarization. At the same time, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the White House have released some of the federal government's most significant policy guidance ever prescribing and proscribing defense support to civilian authorities, reflecting over two centuries of past military engagement with civil authorities, responses to present emergencies and disasters, and future anticipated political, fiscal, and security realities.
This article overviews the historic laws and policies that are the foundations for defense support to civilian authorities, particularly in the context of support to law enforcement agencies and the prevention of or response to civil disorders. This sets the stage for a non-exhaustive historical assessment of 20th and 21st century examples of defense support to civil authorities, broken down into the eras of: the early to mid-20th Century; mid to late-20th Century; the late 1970s through early 1990s: and the so-called "Garden Plot" civil disturbance plan being revisited in real-world application; and the early 2000s through 2010s, putting the Federal Government's National Response Plan (NRP) (later called National Response Framework-NRF) to test in contemporary operations under policies extant at the time of this chapter's writing and under the limitations of the 2015 Executive Order directing better coordinated Federal support for state, local and tribal law enforcement equipment acquisition. This will set the stage for the way ahead, considering the current framework for future national response to disasters and emergencies.
Keywords: National Security, Homeland Security, Department of Defense, DOD, Defense Support to Civilian Authorities, DSCA, Arms Transfers, Law Enforcement, Miitarization
JEL Classification: H50, H56, H70, H82, K42, N40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation