View Full Version : Crime Jurisdiction: Military v. Civilian Cops v. FBI

Round John Virgin
07-17-2008, 07:32 PM
Suppose a young Army dependent vanishes from her on-post school in the U.S. There are no witnesses to the disappearance. She could have been kidnapped (no ransom demands to substantiate), or killed and the body hidden, or become ill, injured, or trapped somewhere out of sight. Or she might have just run away, though her family and friends have little reason to suspect this.

I have some questions about the police procedures that would ensue:

1. What is the jurisdictional pecking order? Would a search begin on post with the provost marshall's office in charge? Who would assist in a broad search of the base--MPs? Other soldiers?

2. At what point would Army CID become involved?

3. What about local and state police?

4. What about the FBI? Kidnapping is a federal crime, but there's no hard evidence that the girl was kidnapped. Could the Feds be asked to sit in as advisors? If so, who would ask them, the Army or the local authorities--and how long after the disappearance? Short of a ransom demand, what would have to happen to warrant the FBI's taking the lead on the case?

5. If it came to light that the girl left the post, either on her own or under duress, would this be apt to cause jurisdictional conflicts? What would the final line of investigative responsibility be?

Thanks very much for any insights you might provide.

07-17-2008, 07:46 PM
I was in the Navy and am a retired police officer so I'll try to relate but I must qualify, that each of the entities you mentioned will have their own criteria.
The base provost marshall would notify the CID if there was any suspicion that this was anything beyond a domestic quarrel. They would also notify local civilian authorities, at least of an 'attempt to locate'. When the criteria for a kidnapping are met, evidence of crossing state lines, ransom, (there are others), then the FBI would come into the picture.
Local police would take an 'assist' role, unless there was hard evidence that the crime took place in their jurisdiction. and the FBI would become involved if the kidnapping criteria, mentioned above were met.

I hope that helps.

Round John Virgin
07-17-2008, 07:51 PM
It does indeed help, RJK. Thanks!