Marine Corps activates new law enforcement battalions

Marines in Bravo Company of the 1st Law Enforcement Battalion practice non-lethal crowd control techniques. Marines in Bravo Company of the 1st Law Enforcement Battalion practice non-lethal crowd control techniques. Grant Hindsley/AP

The Marine Corps has activated its first battalions of law enforcement officers, a group created to quickly respond to emerging issues such as drug trafficking and transnational crime, the Associated Press reported.

Approximately 1,500 troops in three battalions were activated in June. Their primary purpose will be to build off the work of the military police, adding new capacities in criminal investigations and noncombat duties such as training foreign military forces.

This development comes as each of the military branches prepares to increase productivity so they can handle coming cuts to the defense budget. Each of the service branches is adapting to a climate where smaller, smarter and more agile forces will be necessary to address future threats.

The new battalions are expected to conduct intelligence, forensic and biometric work, and civil peace maintenance. A conference in Miami that the U.S. Southern Command will host later this month will showcase the battalions to officials from several Central American countries, AP said.

The new commander of the Law Enforcement Battalion told AP that the incoming troops were well-versed in lessons learned in conflicts abroad.

“Over the past 11 years of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, some lessons learned painfully, there has been a growing appreciation and a demand for, on the part of the war fighter, the unique skills and capabilities that MPs bring to the fight,” Maj. Jan Durham of the 1st Law Enforcement Battalion told AP. “We do enforce traffic laws and we do write reports and tickets, and that’s good, but we do so much more than that.”

Still, concerns about the units remain. Former Marine Corps prosecutor Gary Solis pointed to potential complications that could emerge from the new gray area between police officer and soldier, AP said.

"Cops apply human rights law and Marines apply the law of war,” Solis said. “Now that it's blended, it makes it tougher for the young men and women who have to make the decision as to when deadly force is not appropriate."

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Law Enforcement Battalions will be based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan; respectively.

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