I was alarmed to learn that an SAS unit is now stationed in London1 in the hopes that with their military training the SAS can help combat the threat of terrorists, perhaps better than specially equipped Police units.
It’s no secret that the Met completely got it wrong with reference to the tragic shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes2. They killed the wrong man and then attempted to cover it up with series of lies. However as badly as the situation was handled and as disturbing as the subsequent cover up was, I’m not at all convinced that turning to a military unit is the right answer. Military units are trained for combat not law enforcement, so I find myself questioning whether, in the case of the Menezes shooting, they would have been more or less restrained.
Interestingly, as far as I know here in the UK we do not have the equivalent of the Posse Comitatus Act3, which in the United States is a law that forbids the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the US (unless expressly authorised by Congress). It’s debatable as to whether we need it, however in the US it serves as a deterrent to prevent the deployment of military troops at the local level to deal with what should be purely a law enforcement matter – it should be noted that since 9/11 this law has been somewhat eroded4.
- The Times – SAS Unit moves to London in terror fight, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2559186,00.html[back]
- Jean Charles de Menezes, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Charles_De_Menezes [back]
- Posse Comitatus Act, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act[back]
- The Myth of Posse Comitatus, Major Craig Trebilcock – http://www.homelandsecurity.org/journal/articles/Trebilcock.htm[back]