In August of 2014, military helicopters flew low over residential neighborhoods of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, engaged in a series of night-time training exercises. The exercises involved the Naval Warfare Development Group – a “special forces” component of the U.S. Navy – and were aimed at enhancing urban combat tactics.
Just as they had two years earlier, military personnel had come to the Twin Cities to conduct counter-terrorism training operations in an urban environment. And just as before, those operations commenced with little advance notice to the public.
Follow-up to 2012 exercise
Records obtained from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) by Public Record Media (PRM) indicate that, in many ways, the 2014 training was built upon foundations laid two years earlier. Correspondence between the U.S. Navy and the MPD involved many of the same figures who participated in the 2012 operation – most centrally, those tasked to the Minneapolis SWAT unit.
As with the 2012 exercises, it appears that plans were made to provide cross-training exercises for Minneapolis police officers. “Hopefully,” Kingsbury’s states in his e-mail, “we will have the opportunity to get some of our folks into the game like we did last time.”
Closer military-police collaboration?
While much about the 2014 exercise appears to have paralleled its 2012 predecessor, MPD documents indicate that there were some notable – and perhaps significant – changes to the training regime.
Documents obtained by PRM in 2012 suggested that the Navy’s training operation was – at the time – undertaken for the purpose of preparing special operations forces for foreign deployment. However, records relating to the 2014 exercise include hints that some aspects of that training may have had a domestic focus.
According to an e-mail from an anonymous federal official, “There is a significant change in our ‘template’ since the August 2012 exercise,” and as such “we are under new DOD regulatory guidance for this type of training.”
The military’s solicitation letter to Mayor Hodges included a list of training specifics that mirrored language in its 2012 letter. Those specifics included training for “low visibility movement, low-altitude precision helicopter operations, surveillance, and counter-surveillance.” However, the Navy’s 2014 letter also stated that its exercises would help its personnel in “preserving evidence for criminal prosecution” and that the relationships established with urban law enforcement professionals would be critical to the Navy’s “future success.”
“Evidence collection” highlighted
Due to the existence of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, federal military personnel have largely been barred from participating in civilian law enforcement in a direct, operational capacity. While Congress has provided Posse Comitatus exceptions for logistics and counter-narcotics support, federal law still prohibits military personnel from engaging in arrests, evidence collection, and other tasks in support of domestic public safety and criminal prosecution.
Do the references to “evidence collection” by Navy personnel indicate that the military is actively preparing to undertake such operations on the domestic front? Or do the references point to some other function?
At the same time, references to the Navy’s increased collaboration with “urban law enforcement professionals” clearly indicates a domestic purpose to some of the training, but the extent is impossible to determine from the MPD documents alone. PRM has two other pending record requests related to the 2014 exercise, and hopes to make available additional details about this matter soon.
Full article: Minneapolis police records shed light on 2014 military training (Twin Cities Daily Planet)