USA TODAY College – Jan. 25, 2017
WHAT TRUMP SAID:
President Trump tweeted that if Chicago does not fix the city’s spike in violence, he will “send in the Feds.” The issue: Intervention by federal troops is prohibited under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
Chicago recorded 762 murders and 4,300 shooting victims in 2016 — the deadliest in nearly two decades for the city. The nation’s third-largest city is off to a bloody start in 2017 as well. The city had recorded at least 42 murders through Monday — compared with 34 murders at the same time last year.
Earlier this week, Trump said Mayor Rahm Emanuel should ask for federal help if he is unable to reduce violence in the city. Emanuel responded by saying the federal government could help by funding summer job programs for at-risk youths and passing gun laws.
“I think what the president is upset about is turning on the TV and seeing people being killed,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a news briefing. “He has had conversations with the police department in Chicago and asked ‘What is preventing you from solving this?’”
WHAT COULD IT MEAN TO ‘SEND IN THE FEDS’?
When Trump refers to the “Feds,” he could be talking about the U.S. Armed Forces: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. By sending them into Chicago, Trump could think they will be able to accomplish what the Chicago Police Department cannot, which is decreasing violence.
CAN HE DO THIS?
The Posse Comitatus Act limits the powers of the federal government in using the military – specifically the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force – to enforce domestic polices.
There are a few exceptions/exclusions in which this act does not apply:
- Congress has expressly authorized use of the military to execute the law.
- Congress delegates authority to the president to use the military during a civil disturbance.
- The attorney general requests emergency assistance if domestic law enforcement is ineffective.
- Support roles under the Joint Special Operations Command (example: SEAL Team 6) are excluded.
- The governor of a state authorizes the Army, Air National Guard or state defense forces to intervene.
HAS THIS HAPPENED BEFORE?
Yes: In July 1894, federal troops were called to Chicago to control riots and railroad strikes. Federal marshals and U.S. attorneys notified Attorney General Richard Olney, who presented the requests to President Grover Cleveland after receiving an injunction in federal court that ordered an end to the strike. Thousands of Army troops were sent in to stop the violence.
In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock during the school desegregation crisis. The federal court also authorized troops to desegregate Mississippi in 1962 and Alabama in 1963.