Joint Special Operations University Report on Convergence of Special Forces and Civilian Law Enforcement

Convergence: Special Operations Forces and Civilian Law Enforcement

  • 122 pages
  • July 2010


In recent years there has been an apparent convergence of the operations conducted by Special Operations Forces (SOF) and those of civilian law enforcement agencies (LEAs), especially Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units, in what were formerly separate and distinct missions. The requirements to obtain warrants prior to execution of raids for high-value targets, collect and preserve evidence for criminal prosecution, and on occasion present testimony in courts of law are new missions for SOF. They are not relatively simple changes in the rules of engagement or comparable techniques. As far as can be determined, previously no U.S. military combat arms unit has ever been tasked with such a mission during combat operations. The thesis is straightforward; if such missions are to continue, then consideration must be given to adequate training for them.

In addition, the dangers faced by civilian LEAs in the U.S. have been constantly escalating. Many criminals are equipped with fully automatic weapons and in some areas conducting small-unit operations. The response to these threats requires additional SOF-like civilian units within LEAs. As such, SOF and LEAs will be competing for personnel from a limited subset of the American population.

The purpose of this monograph is to examine the elements precipitating this circumstance, provide SOF with a better understanding of changing domestic threats and operational capabilities of LEAs, and draw insights from the similarities and challenges imposed by transnational gangs and terrorists both domestically and abroad. The monograph will argue that SOF need new skills and training to assume the law-enforcement-like missions they are being assigned. In addition, it will provide leaders of major LEAs a better understanding of special operations and potentially facilitate a basis for future cooperation and mutual support. The monograph is written as a forward-looking document and a harbinger of emerging trends; some are quite clear, and others more subtle, but all worth contemplating, especially by those engaged in planning for the future of SOF. It is also argued that the public attitude toward conflict is changing and perhaps the legal underpinnings on use of force as well.

An important issue surfaced while conducting interviews with special operations personnel from various elements concerning assigned missions. That topic was how many of them reported being asked to conduct functions in Iraq that were very similar to those found in U.S. civilian law enforcement. These assignments were found at various operational levels from those involved in direct action and capture of high-value targets to liaison with Iraqi law enforcement at varying levels of headquarters. It is noted some officers believe such tasks and constraints to be inappropriate for SOF; however, that discussion is not relevant to this monograph. The missions have occurred, are ongoing, and likely to represent a trend for the future. Those SOF having been assigned law enforcement-like missions were asked about any police techniques training they had received prior to arrival in country; they usually responded that they had none. A few, mostly from the reserve components, were civilian law enforcement officers recalled to active duty and had been trained through police academies. The majority of respondents, however, indicated they had learned on the job. It is only because SOF are inherently adaptive and innovative that they were able to perform as well as they did.

The military aspect of this trend was also noted in a U.S. Marine Corps War College student paper in 2008. Both authors—Alan Ivy, a supervisory special agent in the FBI, and COL Ken Hurst, a Special Forces commander—had extensive experience in Iraq and encountered these situations. In their paper they correctly asserted:

The merging of law enforcement and combat operations is producing a fundamental change in how the Department of Defense (DoD) is conducting combat operations. The global war on terrorism (GWOT) is forcing combat soldiers to collect evidence and preserve combat objectives as crime scenes in order to prevent captured enemy forces from returning to the field of battle. The military has been slow to codify the doctrinal and equipment changes that support the incorporation of law enforcement techniques and procedures into military operations.

Share this:


19 comments for “Joint Special Operations University Report on Convergence of Special Forces and Civilian Law Enforcement

  1. A US Libertarian
    March 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    This is dangerous. One thing will lead to another. Inb4 slippery slope is a fallacy, thats what they always say right before they slide down the side of it.

    This has no end. Allow this, and they will only be encouraged to do more of the same, until we are all sitting in martial law with jackbooted thugs marching all over the place.

    In the paper: US goons trying to justify an ultimate end of unconstitutional and illegal martial law.

  2. revjen45
    April 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Given the precedence of mission creep by domestic SWAT units it seems like it won’t be too long before Seal Team 6 will be employed to serve warrants for FTA on a traffic citation.

  3. sofa
    April 3, 2012 at 3:55 am

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
    But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
    …repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States:
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.

    • IdahoMan
      April 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm


    • eyes on
      April 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Yeah but they don’t care about any of that old outdated dogma. This is about their money and their power and their privileges and your obedience and servitude to them and their needs and their children’s of course. At some point that will no doubt involve the sexual favors of your wives and daughters for something like a can of beets but don’t worry were several years away from that anyway.

      Besides, I’m told that it can never happen here and that crap about history repeating itself? Just a bunch of counter revolutionary rumors and lies told by bigots and Oreos.

  4. IdahoMan
    April 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    “In addition, the dangers faced by civilian LEAs in the U.S. have been constantly escalating. Many criminals are equipped with fully automatic weapons and in some areas conducting small-unit operations.”

    Yeah, “criminals” like citizens forming-up with neighbors to protect themselves against a rouge, out-of-control and unlawful government that refuses to respect the rights of the people, ignores the constitution, and tramples the rule-of-law. Why do we have a 2nd Amendment, hmm?

    The fighting arms (Assault-Rifles, machine-guns, etc.) are to in the hands of the people -unregulated, while the guns in the hands of those working for the state are to be as restricted as possible. We are supposed to have a “Militia System” in a free-country (where an armed populous by its nature is a deterrent to crime), not a Police-State system where the government and its agents has the monopoly on all intelligence, arms, equipment, and sustenance.

    “It is also argued that the public attitude toward conflict is changing and perhaps the legal underpinnings on use of force as well.”

    Translation: We want to people to get used to seeing ski-masked secret police kicking in people’s doors at 4:00 am to drag people to who-knows-where. To accept the idea of full-scale, neighborhood-to-town-wide military “lockdowns” and searches. And/or shoot-on-sight ROE(Rules of Engagement). Remember Ruby-Ridge.

    You JBTs(Jack-Booted-Thugs) just remember the law of unintended-consequences. “Public attitude toward..use of force” might change alright, but not the way you wish. Quite the contrary, as the quote goes: “If ‘police’ insist on acting like an occupying enemy army, they should not at all be surprised if the citizenry play their opposing roles in return.”

    But you SWAT/SOF types won’t be surprised. You know exactly what you are doing and where this is leading to. This article all but comes right out and says you want this country to look like Iraq or Afghanistan. In your arrogance you simply just don’t care.

    There is no “GWOT”. Just another of your tactical-wordings for the kind of world/culture you want to live in as it suits your boot-to-face lifestyle. Tyranny.

  5. pitchfork
    April 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Add this to the mounting evidence of tyrant wannabe’s actions.

    then throw the NDAA, and King Obysmal’s claim of the right to kill any American he so deems, by virtue of a “secret memo” authored by his scumbag AG, and it doesn’t take an Eienstein to figure out the hieroglyphs on the wall. For all intent’s and purposes..a coup has taken place in this country. Time to shove the afore mentioned “proclamation” down their f__king throats..again. But what bothers me how long do these repugnant, vile cockroaches think they can get away with these travesties before the blood bath starts. Not to mention..we’re PAYING these psychopaths to do what they’re doing….in OUR name. Now, please excuse me while I go puke.

    • Anonymous Anti-Gubbie
      April 4, 2012 at 12:53 am

      The author MAY have been referring to the hundreds of automatic weapons that Eric Holder, Obama, and Nappy the Idiot let slip across the border in Operation Fast and Furiou.

      • Anonymous Anti-Gubbie
        April 4, 2012 at 12:54 am

        The author MAY have been referring to the hundreds of automatic weapons that Eric Holder, Obama, and Nappy the Idiot let slip across the border in Operation Fast and Furious.

        • theaton
          April 4, 2012 at 3:54 am

          While Opeartion F&F was a criminal conspiracy, not a single automatic weapon was allowed across the border.

    • Frank
      March 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

      Put all too eloquently Pitch, I feel EXACTLY as you state !

  6. April 3, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    “Many criminals are equipped with fully automatic weapons and in some areas conducting small-unit operations.”

    Will the author please cite a source of this amazing claim, as the daily news reports appear curiously silent on the routine use of machine guns and military tactics by criminals.
    Or it could of course be utter bullshit.

  7. Cicero
    April 3, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Got militia?

  8. SWIFT
    April 3, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Not a week goes by that we don’t witness the praetorian guard ramping up for war against we-the-people. You have to assume, correctly I think, that this is all done with the blessing of Washington. Anyone who has been to war, knows how damn destructive it can be. Do they really want one here in CONUS? It is total insanity! Nothing is worth that. No social engineering, no financial cashless society, no geopolitical union, not even the installation of total tyranny is worth the cost. Do they actually believe it can be accomplished without war? Do they think threats will suffice to bring about their New World Order? If so, they could not be more wrong! A civil war will be beyond anyone’s imagination. Sadly, it looks like we are about to find out!

    • BFM
      April 27, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      If you think the US Army Special Forces are PraetorIan guards the you know nothing about them.

  9. emdfl
    April 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    “Enemies, Foreign and Domestic”(Matt Bracken, 2003) was just a few years premature.
    I strongly recommend his trilogy to anyone who hasn’t read it.

  10. dredtost
    April 5, 2012 at 6:11 am

    Oslama is reading his use of our own military/law enforcement against our own people by taking way our 2nd amendment and confiscating our guns! Don’t ever say it can’t/won’t ever happen! It did happen in Austrailia years ago and now even in Switiziand the Gov’t is talking about not requiring each male inhabitant to have firearm at home and completion of training in how to use them.
    Why do you think they remained neutral in WWI & WWII? The terriane and rifles ready to be used by everyone in their country! Not like our country and it’s bunch of dweebs and wussies. Thank God however let not worry totally because we do have a large “cadre” of true blue patriots!!!

  11. Cowboy Dan
    April 6, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Re: Changing attitude toward conflict.

    Cowboy wisdom says when you try to teach a critter a lesson in meanness,, you ought not be surprised if he learns the lesson. I hope there are some cowboys and Oath Keepers in the SF/LE community.

    It may get ugly, folks. I pray daily thar we can pass by without it, but I’m not going to bet the farm on it.

  12. Fandalf
    April 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    These forces should be able to clear out all the trash during the 2012-2013 riots!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *