Military Aid to the Civil Power

From Academic Kids

Military aid to the civil power (MACP) is assistance by the armed forces to the police in maintaining law and order. It is used in many countries, including Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.


United Kingdom

MACP is one of the fundamental military tasks of the British Army. As with all deployments of the armed forces, its use must be specifically authorised by a defence minister. It is always applied at the request and under control of the police. The legal basis is the common law duty of every subject to maintain the Queen's peace.

Examples of military aid to the civil power include:


Canada has similar provisions for military aid to the civil power inscribed in its National Defence Act, a historical inheritance from its days as a British dominion. However, the application is significantly different due to the federal nature of Canada, where the maintenance of "law and order" is the exclusive right and responsibility of the provinces. The political authority empowered to requisition military aid is therefore the Solicitor General of the affected province. His request is forwarded directly to the Chief of the Defence Staff (NOT to the federal government of Canada) who is obliged by law to execute the request. However, the Chief of the Defence Staff alone can determine the nature and level of forces to be committed. The requesting province may subsequently be billed to pay the cost of the military aid, although the Federal government, which does not want to appear "cheap" after a major crisis affecting a province, most often waives it.

While the military is legally free to decide how to deal with an issue in regard to which it has been called out, in practise it works under the direction of the police forces of the province that has requested its aid. Such requests are made relatively often for specialized resources such as armoured vehicles (e.g. hostage situations) and technical capabilities not possessed by police forces. They are also called out in the case of police strikes in those provinces that have unionised provincial police forces. Quebec has not hesitated to call on the Army for such help because the Army is the only other agency with French speaking members able to replace striking police; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has few reserves able to provide a "surge" capability, and its French-speaking capability is more limited.

Significant use of the Army in aid of the Québec civil power includes two relatively recent major civil crises:

The Federal government can and does use the military in aid of its own responsibilities, such as guarding federal buildings and facilities. Since 1993, the Canadian Forces have also provided the country's federal antiterrorist forces, replacing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in that function. (See JTF2 for details of request and control of this capability).


The post-war constitution of Germany strictly forbids the use of military force in police functions. The functions that MACP has in other countries are carried out by special police forces, which are basically under the control of the state governments, not of the federal government. For some actions, federal police forces can be used either by orders of the federal administration and federal judiciary or by request of the state government. The counter-terrorist unit GSG9 is part of the Bundesgrenzschutz and is well known in Germany for its antiterrorist missions. However, several state police corps have similar units. The Bundesgrenzschutz and the GSG9 were historically combatants and they had military ranks, but have always been under the control of the Ministry of the Interior.

This strict separation between civil and military power was enacted to prevent the army from becoming a political power again in internal affairs and to secure its subordination to the civil power. Since the 1990s, a number of conservative politicians has called for an abolition of this rule, but there seems to be no majority for such a change.

But a new law was passed in September 2004, the Air Security Act (German: Luftsicherheitsgesetz). Since September 24th, 2004 there is an exception from the use of military force regarding air security: In a case of imminent danger, the Bundeswehr and its air force branch, the Luftwaffe is authorised to use force against an aircraft. As ultima ratio, the Minister of Defense is empowered to give the order to shoot down an aircraft if the aircraft is used as a weapon against humans and there is no other way to repel the attack.

Air Policing is a traditional task of the Luftwaffe. While the constitutionality of the Air Security Act is disputed, the air policing done by the Luftwaffe is considered legal because of customary law.

See also


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