“Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention, that of providing for their safety seems to be first.”
Our founding father John Jay wrote these words in The Federalist, a 1788 publication that made a powerful case for why our Nation needed a Constitution to bind our states together. Over two centuries later, the United States’ ability to maintain the safety of its citizens has indeed been vital to our ongoing unity, liberty, and leadership role in the world.
On Monday, we will celebrate Memorial Day to remember and honor those who lost their lives while serving in our military. But on May 15, we also celebrated Peace Officers Memorial Day to pay tribute to local, state, and Federal officers who died or were disabled in the line of duty. The meaning of their sacrifice, and the weight of grief of their families, is no less impactful than that of the 1.1 million service members killed while fighting in our Nation’s wars. In both cases, these individuals were willing to give their last full measure of devotion for their fellow citizens, many of whom they had never even met.
As we think about the men and women who keep us safe at home and abroad, it is important to consider that difference between our internal security forces (police) and our external security forces (the military). In fact, their separation is one of the most important principles underpinning our democracy.
The Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878, limits the Government’s ability to use Federal military personnel to enforce domestic security. And while the act does allow for the Army and National Guard to assist in emergencies, it sets a high bar for the use of Federal troops in policing. For example, as recently as 2009, the Army determined that under the Posse Comitatus Act, military police from Fort Rucker, Alabama, should not have assisted local police in traffic control at a crime scene.
Our public servants in the military and police understand the importance of that divide—which many nations around the world, including totalitarian regimes, do not respect—and they’re willing to lay down their lives to preserve it. The separation of our military from domestic police is also a key reason why the majority of Americans trust the military—72% of those polled last year said they had a lot of confidence in our armed forces.
But our public servants also understand that what connects these communities—safeguarding the value of human life, mutual sacrifice, and commitment to a cause larger than oneself—is more meaningful than what divides them. And they take advantage of opportunities to collaborate and share resources in emergency preparedness, training, and natural disaster response while not crossing that critical line in law enforcement.
While remembering our fallen service members this Memorial Day, I encourage you to consider the military-police divide among our many freedoms and use the opportunity to also honor and thank our domestic peace officers. I also encourage you to attend the observances taking place across Harford County on Monday, May 28. I will attend and deliver remarks at the event in the city of Aberdeen.
Aberdeen: Veterans Memorial Park, N. Parke St. and N. Rogers St., 11 a.m.
Bel Air: Community Band Concert and Ceremony, Shamrock Park, Lee Way and Hickory Avenue, 10:30 a.m.
Havre de Grace: Angel Hill Cemetery, 750 Ohio St., 9 a.m.; Tydings Memorial Park, 908 S. Washington St., 11 a.m.
America’s Army, Your Army!
Maj. Gen. Randy S. Taylor
Aberdeen Proving Ground