Philadelphia’s New Mayor wants to call in the National Guard – What State and U.S. Constitution Powers will prevent it?
Recently elected Mayor Cherelle Parker has indicated her intent to use the National Guard to address Philadelphia’s skyrocketing crime rate. Specifically, Parker wants to use the National Guard to combat the open-air drug markets in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Parker, however, despite previously serving in the State Legislature as well as on City Council appears to not understand the constitution, the National Guard’s purpose or is simply demonstrating a potential pattern of making promises she can’t deliver to the City.
What is the National Guard?
The National Guard is a special part of the United States military which answers both to State Governors and the President of the United States. It is a different force than the Army. Historically the Guard was originally designed to serve as a reserve for military operations, but over the years it has been called in to address domestic crisis as well as overseas conflicts.
While the National Guard are not active-duty Soldiers, they are nevertheless a highly trained equipped military fighting force which often serves side by side with active-duty military personnel. Compared to even a large city police department, the National Guard has more resources, firepower, and access to better training. Governors and the President have called upon the Guard to address natural disasters, riots, and border security. The Guard has also been deployed to places such as Afghanistan and Iraq as well as various overseas locations.
Who can call in the National Guard?
While the National Guard is a domestic force, what Mayor-Elect Parker fails to understand is that she has no control over this highly trained fighting force and only Governor Shapiro or President Biden can mobilize it as Commander in Chief. Parker’s statements regarding the use of the National Guard should cause people concerns. It demonstrates a tendency to make promises which she can’t keep or an inability. Parker’s statements regarding the National Guard are more than campaign promises, they are simply lies.
Governor Shapiro himself, Pennsylvania’s leading member of Parker’s own party, questioned Parker’s position in the most diplomatic of fashions, but even Shapiro himself would admit that her position is simply wrong.
When is the National Guard mobilized?
Parker’s statements are out of line with the National Guard’s purpose. The National Guard’s duties include the following:
- Disaster Relief– The Guard is frequently called to respond to Statewide emergencies such as natural disasters.
- Military Support– Since 9/11 the National Guard has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as to collect and analyze intelligence related to the war in the Ukraine. The Guard has also assisted in training members of the Ukraine Armed Forces.
- Law Enforcement– The National Guard can be deployed by State Governors for law enforcement purposes. Governors have deployed the National Guard to respond to protest, riots, and other temporary times of civil unrest. This is NOT the situation in Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s drug problem is long term issue with no initial start. The National Guard has never been deployed as simply a long-term law enforcement solution as Mayor Parker has indicated in her statements. Parker’s plan would effectively have the Guard patrolling the streets of Philadelphia indefinitely.
The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits federal troops from participating in civilian law enforcement. This law incorporates an American principle that sees military interference in civilian affairs as a threat to both democracy and personal liberty. While this Act applies to the Army, it only applies to National Guard if they are mobilized under Presidential Order. Members of the National Guard, however, are rarely covered by the Posse Comitatus Act because they usually report to their state or territory’s governor.
The Guard can participate in law enforcement within a State but in cases where there is a specific problem and a source of that problem such a riot or some civil unrest caused from a specific issue. The Guard is not meant to supplement police indefinitely which is want Parker wants in this situation. Governor Shapiro is the Commander in Chief of this force and without his Order, Parker’s plan is simply a campaign promise which she can’t keep as it is outside of her power. She has no authority over the Guard. Hopefully, this is not a pattern from the New Mayor!