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Military and Native American Criminal Justice - Military Police

war soldiers discipline army

The enforcement of military codes and discipline is a necessity within the U.S. armed forces. Military police generally capture deserters (those who run away from their post), arrest service personnel accused of criminal activities, and control rowdiness.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Army copied the British system of police units called provosts (soldiers assigned solely to keep order). However, following the Revolution until the Civil War, the army simply assigned regular troops to perform these policing duties, but during the conflict the large armies of the North and South were particularly unruly while in camp and away. Soldiers looted and fought frequently, so both sides adopted systems creating provost marshals, who had police powers. The marshals assumed important responsibilities after the war as well, overseeing the temporary local governments setup in the South.

During World War I (1914–18) the U.S. Army established the Military Police Corps with soldiers wearing "MP" armbands. Their roles included rounding up soldiers who had abandoned their duties, guarding enemy prisoners and prisoner-of-war camps, and investigating cases of desertion (leaving without permission) and draft evasion (avoiding a national call to duty). The navy had a similar program called Shore Patrol, in which sailors maintained order and discipline particularly between off-duty sailors and civilians. None of these programs were permanent parts of the military.

As the United States got ready for World War II, the U.S. Department of War created a permanent Military Police Corps in September 1941, less than two months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This was the beginning of a permanent military police force with an MP training program. Over two hundred thousand military personnel served as MPs during the war.

Military police were responsible for keeping order and enforcing discipline throughout the remainder of the twentieth century and into the new millennium. MPs also provide security for military facilities, including those near combat zones, and guard prisoners of war.

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