Unclassified: Army's Plan For Use Of Lethal Force In Riot Situations

Unclassified: Army's Plan For Use Of Lethal Force In Riot Situations

A declassified April 2014 Army Techniques Publication (ATP) outlines techniques for the Army to use against civilians in the U.S. and around the world when demonstrations turn to riots that must be brought under control.

It must be noted that the ATP document makes clear the ROE are different in the continental U.S. (CONUS) versus outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS), and stresses that those differences have to be taken into consideration. The military is significantly more restricted in acting against civilians within in the continental United States by a number of federal laws, including provisions within the Constitution, Insurrection Act (10 USC 333-334), the Posse Comitatus Act (18 USC 1385), and several other statutes outlined in the document. 

As the document states, “for the U.S. Army, conducting civil disturbance missions within the United States will vary greatly when compared to conducting civil disturbance missions within a foreign country where the U.S. Army is conducting operations.”

The response includes non-lethal weapons (NLW), lethal weapons, Military Working Dogs (MWD), Designated Marksmen (DM)–which are snipers–and aircraft for psychological impact.

The ATP document sets forth the formation of a Graduated Response Matrix (GPM) as the means to control the timing/deployment of the various weapons/methods against demonstrators. It also provides a rough example of how a GPM unfolds in real time:

2-34: Individuals designated as non-lethal shooters must have the means to transition to lethal rounds, if lethal firing is required…These nonlethal shooters must be well-trained in transition from nonlethal to lethal firing, as well as weapons retention. 

2-36: Commanders should not dispatch patrols with only NLW capabilities. They should plan patrols with [NLW] capabilities in addition to their lethal capabilities. Solders are never sent in harm’s way without lethal protection.

2-37: Recovery, apprehension and distraction teams should be established before deployment. Team members should be equipped with personal protective equipment, a sidearm, nonlethal munitions and weapons, and disposable restraints. They should have some training in open-hand control, pain compliance, and handcuffing techniques.

2-38: Crowd control formations…should be well-trained and well rehearsed. 

2-29: Lethal overwatch, in the form a designated Designated Marksman (DM), always covers the control force. During an engagement, the use of a DM provides confidence and safety to those facing a riot. The DM in an overwatch position scans the crowd to identify threats and designates personnel for recovery, as well as firing lethal rounds (if a lethal threat is presented). They are ideally suited for flank security and countersniper operations. 

The ATP document contains a graph outlining Rules of Engagement (ROE) should the military be used in a riot situation. The graph shows that the “display [of’] force along with escalating the dispersal proclamation” is protocol against unarmed civilians, but the “demonstration of force” is not allowed. Civilians go from the category of “unarmed” to that of “armed” if they have “knives, clubs.” At that point, the “display [of] force along with escalating the dispersal proclamation,” highlighting of “the target pointer,” and a “demonstration of sniper precision strike capabilities” falls within ROE. 

The GPM continues to unfold with greater intensity from there.

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