Response to Looters & Gangs after Disaster
What can we do as CERT responders when looters and gangs invade a disaster site and there is no law enforcement available. Looking at recent disasters this is a real issue. Law enforcement can not protect us before or especially after a disaster. Their job is to document, after the fact, what happened and then try to find and arrest suspects. They can not be there to protect you when IT happens. Each CERT responder must think about this issue BEFORE a disaster happens and this should be part of the CERT course. Do we run and hide and hope they don't find us or do we ....?
EMS personnel are taught ' scene safety ' when a scene is not considered safe to enter then you don't. If you are working an area and looters arrive, grab your gear and get out. other peoples belongings are not worth your life or well being.
Depending on where you live, YOU have a right to protect yourself, your family and your property with lethal force if necessary. This is called the Castle Doctrin law in some states. What that means is you have a right to protect your castle (home) against attackers and are not required to run away. Should you stay and fight? Only you can answer that. Is your property worth your life? Be warned, you have to be able to live with your act in the aftermath. Look up this law for complete information as each state is different.
This is a very interesting topic, and a very charged one as well. Depending on the CERT Team's relationship with the local authorities, we can become the eyes and ears of the police and alert them to mayhem. Depending on the size of the town or city and the nature of the disaster it may be unrealistic to expect help. Are you deployed in an urban setting or rural? Can a rational man or woman expect civil security or will it fall to organized volunteers? During Katrina, there were no officers to respond. After Super Storm Sandy, National Guard, Rhode Island and Massachusetts State Troopers aided, but that all took time organize.
An organized presence in the time immediately after a disaster can be a deterrent. Vigilante's we are not.
Proceed with caution, as this is a slippery slope.
Should Cert Members take arms?
It depends on the circumstances.22%(4)
Yes, we need to protect ourselves and others.61%(11)
Yes, we need to fill the void left by the authorities?0%(0)
This poll closed on Jan 31st 2013
FEMA has consistently ignored this reality.It's long overdue that disaster responders have the option of being trained as Peace Officers and carry firearms. Note I said "option". Those of you who don't want this, feel free to be unarmed.. I won't be unarmed.
Take care of you and your's first then expand your efforts outward to the community. CERT members swear allegiance to uphold the US Constitution. You have a constitutional right to confront external force with resistance even if that requires the formation of a local well regulated militia. But beware.
There is no law that prohibits you from forming such a militia ahead of time if that is your particular set of concerns. But beware.
---- The command structure of the militia must fall under "well regulated," which generally requires a pledge to follow (a) lawfully issued orders that are (b) Constitutional in scope.
---- CERT functions should only be supported by militia and not combined. It will only prove counter productive to the goal of saving lives to combine the two functions. Keep them separate. The humanitarian focus inherent in the role of CERT should place it into the role the lead agency not the militia. Even if martial law is declared, the support of CERT's functions should remain primary as lead agency as long as practical, with militia in support. CERT Incident commanders predisposed to running the militia should make a choice as to what hat they are wearing. Either -- Or , but not both.
---- At some point early on, if you are attempting to create a militia here are things you need to consider.
---- Don't call yourself a militia. You and your local residents and guests can defend yourself and a neighborhood base camp without all the legal falderal of calling yourself a militia.
---- if you call yourself a militia you imply a willingness to escalate your power into aggressive "war making" to any confronted authority. You will not be considered "well regulated" if your "militia" has no relationship with local police, sheriff or state Governor's office. You will instead be considered in all likelihood an "unlawful enemy combatant" unless you are simply protecting your own property in a defensive only posture.
---- The now famous scene of the Koreans sitting atop their own store-building with semi-automatics during the last LA Riots, where protecting their own property. Lord save them if they had fired the first shots at a perceived threat into the LA Streets as they would likely have been run up on charges unless they were under fire first .... and they could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are going to form a "well regulated militia" in your community, you may find yourself legally responsible for the actions of everyone you set in motion. Think of a scared, untrained 19-old (not seasoned vets) shooting someone a 400 yards out from a position in broad daylight from a posting assignment you sent them to.
Without a tie-back to your local police, sheriff, and governor's office, you would be foolish, in my book, to form a community militia. Don't do it.
If you are this concerned about the complete collapse of law and order, such as the famous New Orleans Katrina after math scenario with cops leaving town and not patrolling, you do not need a militia to project yourself. If necessary form temporary armed supply trains and temporary armed camps and get supplies in and out with a specific mission, out and back. Don't call it a militia, it's not. Be prepared to them turn over security to "a well regulated militia" or police, or sheriff when they arrive on scene.
On the other hand the concern that government itself will act un-Constitutionally against it's own people by using its own cops, sheriff, and armed forces personnel or visiting foreign troops on US soils, can be addressed differently.
Redirect your energies to educating law enforcement personnel on what constitutes lawful orders and appeal to their patriotism and offer them a well publicized list and plead with their better angels to enforce the following list on your behalf:
1. Do NOT obey orders to disarm the American people.
2. Do NOT obey orders to conduct warrant-less searches of the American people
3. Do NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.
4. Do NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.
5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.
6. Do NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
7. Do NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.
8. Do NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control."
9. Do NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
10.Do NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.
Be prepared to them turn over security to "a well regulated militia" or police, or sheriff when they arrive on scene. If they take over security command and deputize you or instruct you (an implied form of deputization) and you choose to obey them, you are now legally operating under their authority. You are then free of being accused of being an unlawful enemy combatant or vigilante, which is very important when and if shooting starts. If possible video record such conversations or get it in writing or at the minimum have multiple witnesses to such agreement if time permits as the legal repercussions of what you do are immense.
As members of a CERT team, why not deploy a person to act as that team's security force? Law enforcement will be busy and spread thin. A CERT team member with the proper training and proficiency with small arms would be a welcome resource. A lot of the firefighters and EMTs I work with are former military or avid hunters or both. They have a great working knowledge of small arms and would be handy in such a disaster.
That idea is an excellent one. A professional embedded within the team can also give direction in "iffy" situations, acting as more than just "security." The team that is being assembled in my county now is seriously considering embedding professional rescuers in each team as a means of stretching their resources and improving our abilities. It's a great match.