Today I have a special guest and friend who will share some thoughts on the US ARMY CID Special Agent. This is an invaluable peek behind the curtain from a guy who is one of the best. His name is Ross Gardner and he’s done just about everything a guy can do in this field. Ross M. Gardner worked for the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command (USACIDC) as a felony criminal investigator for nearly twenty years. He retired as a Command Sergeant Major and Special Agent in 1999 after serving a total of 24 years in US Army law enforcement. Mr. Gardner subsequently served four years as the Chief of Police for the City of Lake City Georgia, a small suburban Atlanta police department. He is now retired and active in independent consulting.Mr. Gardner holds a Master of Arts degree in Computer and Information Systems Management from Webster University, a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice from Wayland Baptist University and Associates degree in Police Science from Central Texas College. He graduated first in his class at the Scenes of Crime Officers Course, New Scotland Yard, Hendon England in 1985 and between 1988 and 1996 served as an adjunct professor for Central Texas College in their police science program. He is a former President of the Rocky Mountain Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts (RMABPA), as well as the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction (ACSR) and has served as the Chairmen of the Education Committee for both the RMABPA and the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts (IABPA). Mr. Gardner was recognized as a Distinguished Member of ACSR in 2006. He is a charter member of the FBI Scientific Workgroup on Bloodstain Pattern Analysis (SWGSTAIN) and served as the chairmen of the taxonomy and terminology subcommittee from 2002 until 2009.Mr. Gardner is certified by the International Association for Identification as Senior Crime Scene Analyst, a rating he’s held for sixteen years. He is an active instructor and consultant throughout the United States in crime scene analysis, bloodstain pattern analysis and crime scene investigation; teaching to a variety of groups ranging from police and investigative organizations to trial counsel professional development groups. He is also author of the text Practical Crime Scene Processing and Investigation
2nd edition (2012). F4F Note: In full disclosure I am a contributing author to this textbook but even if I wasn’t I’d say it is the best modern textbook available on crime scene processing.
F4F: Ross, you have worked in both civilian and military law enforcement. What would you say is the biggest difference between the two?
RG: I think the primary differences in military and civilian law enforcement are four fold.
1. Stable population aspects. The military is very much a cross section of main-stream America. Members come from various backgrounds, races, and hold a wide range of cultural beliefs. But the military specifically culls out the wild cards. Crazies, the mentally unstable as a general rule simply don’t make it into the ranks. The majority of soldiers, sailors and marines encountered on a day to day basis are very stable people. In the civilian community, that stable population aspect is not true. A civilian police officer during any encounter on the street could easily come up against mentally unstable people and they do so routinely.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t mentally unstable people on an installation. Family members, civilian workers, or soldiers who go off the deep end without anyone in the system seeing the problem develop might be encountered (consider the PTSD issues we see developing in the returning veterans). The true difference is probably in numbers. Just the same that stable population doesn’t mean there is less crime either. Soldiers are human, and thus subject to all the emotions (fear, anger, hate, lust, greed) that lead any human to violate the law, so that is not to say that there is not crime in the military. Crime is brought on by the human condition and we don’t have robots as soldiers.
2. Authority Structure. In the civilian community people don’t have any filters if they don’t like the police. They say and do whatever they decide to do and the officer is often the brunt of significant verbal abuse and actions that often border on obstruction. Civilians do this with impunity and then just walk off, often anonymous in their actions. If the civilian police officer forces the issue, it generally leads to a more divisive encounter that simply put is not worth their time and distracts them from the mission they came to do in the first place.
In the (US) military that situation is a little different. First and foremost the culture of the military develops personal discipline and respect for authority, so soldiers in general accept authority figures even if they don’t particularly like what they are saying or doing. But more important to the military law enforcement officer is the fact that every soldier encountered belongs to some organization, each carries an identification card and is duty bound to identify him or herself if challenged. They can’t just walk away anonymous. So if they are acting out of expected character, even though they might not be apprehended, that information can get back to the leadership in the unit. Its not that a soldier won’t start down that path, but in such an encounter, the soldier realizes they have a lot to lose by acting a fool. Even the unruliest soldier on the street eventually recognizes his behavior will be known by people who do matter to him.
3. Search Authority Levels. This is an oddity of the military. Every organization consists of areas of control. A Company Commander has certain billets, motor pools, administration buildings and so forth that he or she are literally signed for. The respective Battalion, Brigade and Division Commanders similarly have authority over these areas as a function of the chain of command. Thus when seeking a search warrant for a billets, a military law enforcement officer (MPI, CID) can present the probable cause for search to any one of these Commander’s and receive authority to search This process was once allowed to be a verbal presentation (although that was a very bad procedure, as the commander might not take notes and at trial might well forget what they were told). Most MPI/CID (Military Police Investigators/Criminal Investigation Division) write out the affidavit in support of the search just as they would for any judge, but present it to the Commander of the unit. In terms of seeking and obtaining authority to search a soldier’s room, or a company area, it is easier to achieve a warrant. Magistrates and judges are always available, but at 2AM its a lot easier to get a hold of the unit Commander than the judge.
4. Apprehension/Arrest procedures. In the civilian world when you violate the law, you are either released with a summons by the police or you are taken to jail. Arrest is a procedure by which a police officer takes you into custody. In the military arrest means something entirely different. In the military an MP, MPI, or CID Agent apprehends a suspect. They take them into physical custody. They are processed through the military police station and released back to their respective units. Only in cases where an individual is an obvious threat and or flight risk are suspects put in a confinement facility. At the unit, the Commander can restrict the movement of the soldier through a form of arrest (confinement to their room, to the company area or whatever the case may be). This harkens back to that culture of discipline. If the soldiers violates the arrest limitations imposed by his Commander he faces additional charges and issues.
F4F: Do CID agents have any jurisdiction off of military bases?
RG: I don’t recall the case, but in the 80′s there was a case doctrine that effectively stated, that a soldier could be standing on a mountain top in the middle of Montana smoking a reefer (Marijuana) and the military had authority over him. So the simple answer is yes, the military has authority over soldiers on and off the installation. That leads to jurisdiction concerns. Most installations are exclusive federal jurisdictions. Military members are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) the laws of the military. Everyone is subject to the US Code (Federal Law). So military authorities handle all cases involving (military) members and the FBI or US magistrates handle civilians. There were occasional situations where there was a concurrent jurisdiction. Installations where both state, UCMJ and Fed law were in place. Those were a little more difficult and usually had memorandum of understandings that specified who did what where.
Off the installation CID Agents do have authority, but it is limited to investigations in which the military is a party of interest. CID Agents are defined by statute as federal law enforcement officers, but the Posse Commitattus Act (a left-over from the civil war) in effect limits what they do. So the military can investigate soldiers at any time on or off the installation. In fact, the CID have a specific form of investigation, where they may conduct an investigation of a soldier even though the local authorities have assumed jurisdiction. This was set in place more so as a means of protection of soldiers. In the early days of CID, many installations were in rural, relatively backwoods areas. Civilian law enforcement may or may not have been sufficiently trained or considered to be unbiased. So the CID could assist them in the investigation and if the locals were considered biased, it allowed the Command to know and at least attempt to ensure justice was done.
Agents routinely operate on and off the installation but under the limitations imposed by the law.
Check back in a few days for part 2 of this interview and learn more about real life ARMY CID agents…