Risks from Using the Military for Crime Fighting

"Using the military for internal matters like crimefighting carries four main risks. First, it generates a potentially tense overlap between military and police institutional missions and responsibilities, especially for crime prevention and control. Second, it politicizes the military; as Hunter (1994) warns, it 'invites the armed forces to remain an important political actor.... The symbolic significance of military involvement in domestic affairs should also not be underestimated, especially where a tradition of interventionism exists.'89 Third, it places military personnel in a situation for which they are not properly trained or equipped: constant contact with the population. This entails risks of authoritarian behavior and human rights abuse. Fourth, it carries a high institutional opportunity cost. Recurring constantly to the military to solve internal security problems reduces political will to make the investments necessary to build a functioning civilian security and justice sector. This sector’s continued weakness, in turn, guarantees that the armed forces will be called on again in the future."
[Note: Ellipses in original.]


Withers, George; Santos, Lucila; and Isacson, Adam, "Preach What You Practice: The Separation of Military and Police Roles in the Americas," Washington Office on Latin America (Washington, DC: November 2010), p. 14.