PART A - THE SOURCES OF POLICE AUTHORITY
Black's Law Dictionary (5th Ed.) defines the term "authority" (p. 121) as "the
right to exercise power...to implement and enforce laws; to exact obedience." It
defines "jurisdiction" (p. 766) as the "authority by which courts...take cognizance
of and decide cases."
It is the "power and authority of a court to hear and
determine a judicial proceeding...the right and power of a court to adjudicate
concerning the subject matter in a given case."
What we are talking about, is POWER. More specifically, we are going to be looking
at your powers.
When can a military police officer lawfully exercise his
authority? What are the limits? When will the courts have the power to try the
offenders who violate our law?
Sources of authority.
Under our system of government, we cannot do things
just because we want to do them. A police officer cannot testify in court that he
acted in a certain manner simply because he "felt like it."
Such testimony in
court could prove disastrous. It is important, then, to understand the basis (or
sources) for the exercise of one's authority under our system of government. There
are several different sources, in descending order:
a. The U.S. Constitution.
This is, of course, the highest source of
authority under our system of government. Article I, Section 8, empowers Congress
"to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces."
Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution makes the President the Commander-
in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
The federal courts (ultimately, the U.S. Supreme
Court) interpret the meaning of the U.S. Constitution.
b. Acts of Congress, i.e., the UCMJ.
In furtherance of the power given it
under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, Congress enacted the Uniform Code
of Military Justice. The UCMJ is an act of Congress, and has the force and effect
of such. Another example of a congressional enactment is the U.S. Code, Title 18,
which sets forth the main body of federal criminal law.
c. The Manual for Courts-Martial.
The President, in his role as Commander-
in-Chief of the Armed Forces, has authority to issue Executive Orders pertaining to
the military, and particularly military justice.
Article 36, UCMJ, gave the
President the power to prescribe by regulation "the procedure, including modes of
proof, in cases before courts-martial."
Similarly, Article 56, UCMJ, gave the
President the power to provide punishments for the various offenses under the UCMJ.
The President exercised his powers derived from Congress and the
Constitution, promulgating the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM).
First enacted in
1951, it was substantially revised in 1969, and again in 1984.
d. Regulation. There are, of course, service wide (DOD regulations), as well
as individual Army regulations, Air Force regulations, Navy regulations,