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Army probes domestic use of troops in Alabama
Rachel Oswald
Published: Wednesday March 18, 2009

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Though the strained Samson Police Department was no doubt glad to have U.S. Army military police on hand to direct traffic during last week's tragic shooting spree, it appears that the troops were deployed without the proper authorization and in possible violation of federal law.

An inquiry by the U.S. Army has been opened to find out how and why 22 active duty troops from Fort Rucker, Ala. were placed on the streets of the town of Samson during the shooting spree, which took the lives of 11 people on March 10, reported on Wednesday.

Harvey Perritt, spokesman for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., told on Monday that the military police soldiers, along with the provost marshal were sent to Samson.

“The purpose for sending the military police, the authority for doing so, and what duties they performed is the subject of an ongoing commander’s inquiry--directed by the commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command," Perritt said. “In addition to determining the facts, this inquiry will also determine whether law, regulation and policy were followed.”

Jim Stromenger, a dispatcher at the Samson Police Depatrment, told that the troops “came in to help with traffic control and to secure the crime scene” and that the department was glad for the help. “They weren’t here to police, let me make that clear. They were here to help with traffic and to control the crime scene--so people wouldn’t trample all over (it).”

As Samson only has a five-man police department, the assistance provided by the military police was badly needed during the shooting spree. Though calls for police assistance had gone out to surrounding areas, Stromenger said it wasn't the Samson Police Department that requested the soldiers' presence.

The Associated Press reports that state officials said the deployment of the soldiers "was requested neither by Republican Gov. Bob Riley nor the White House, which typically is required by law for soldiers to operate on U.S. soil."

Gov. Riley's press secretary Jeff Emerson told The AP that the governor wasn't concerned with the possibility that the military overstepped its bounds by deploying in a civilian setting without the proper legal authorization.

"From what I understand it was a few folks who came to direct traffic or help where they could," Emerson said. "If it had been more than what it was there might be a reason for concern, but these folks just came to see if they could help and left."

The White House press office has not yet responded to media requests for comment on the Army inquiry. reports that the wrongful use of federal troops inside U.S. borders "is a violation of several federal laws, including one known as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878."

“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” the law states.

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