Military police units train in Arizona for potential civil unrest

Arizona National Guard
Posted at 5:04 PM, Oct 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-20 00:28:19-04

PHOENIX — New video shows military police units training in Arizona ahead of a potential deployment if activated for civil unrest ahead of the election, but it is unclear if the soldiers would be armed.

The video posted to a public site on Monday shows soldiers with the 850th Military Police Battalion training earlier this month by loading up an aircraft as part of a readiness training if they were to be activated for any event.

However, we know Arizona and Alabama are two states that are preparing to activate units with 300 citizen-soldiers if there is civil unrest as part of the federal Rapid Response Force.

The two response teams are for geographical reasons — Arizona would respond to the West, and Alabama would respond to the East. Governor Doug Ducey will play a key role for the activation of these teams as the request for soldiers would come directly to Ducey from a governor at another state on the west coast.

ABC15 reached out to the governor’s office for an interview about the guard’s role, but we were only given responses by email.

A spokesperson for the Arizona National Guard told ABC15 that they can't speculate where a request will be made, or where units will be deployed.

As far as training, ABC15 asked if the units have been training for potential civil unrest after the election.

In a statement, a spokesperson wrote, “The Citizen-Soldiers of the 850th Military Police Battalion receive annual civil disturbance training that focuses on peaceful and non-lethal de-escalation techniques, tactics, and procedures. Training is the cornerstone of all that we do in the National Guard and we focus year-round to become capable and efficient to meet the needs of our communities.”

ABC15 also asked if service members would be armed, “the role that service member is assigned during this response will determine their posture,” a statement read.

As far as what roles will the units provide, duties may include, but are not limited to: point/area security, manning traffic control points, directing foot traffic, providing security and escort for emergency personnel/equipment.

Professor Braden Allenby teaches about national security, military, war, and emergency technologies at Arizona State University and said he would think that these units would be armed.

ABC15 asked Allenby if we should expect to see military units on election day, or if they will only be activated for violence, “I would suspect that they are probably not committed to either one, I think that we would probably only see the deployment if there were problems of violence, and that if what you needed was people patrolling around polling areas, that would be done by local authorities,” he said.

Allenby said the early voting might help minimize the threat of violence on election day.

“If the entire election came down to 24 hours with specific polling locations the potential for violence would be very high, but if many people have already voted, then Election Day becomes a less of a flashpoint and that may turn out to be, in fact, one of the lessons of this election,” said Alleby.

A spokesperson for Governor Ducey said in a statement that Arizona stands ready to assist other states if requested through an Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), “This type of agreement is not election-day related — it simply allows the AZNG to stand ready if there is a request from another state, similar to the assistance Arizona provided to Wisconsin last month at the request of that state’s governor.”

The governor’s office went on to say that this police battalion unit is uniquely trained and suited to respond to civil disturbances around the country in support of local law enforcement.