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Questions About the British Military Police Arresting an Officer
sebastian stan green
xanthe wrote in little_details
I'm seeking some help on a few issues relating to the British military, and specifically the Military Police.

My story is set about 80 years in the future, so many things have changed, which gives me a certain leeway. However, I would like to start out from a position of as much accuracy as possible in terms of how it works now in order to have a feeling of realism about it. I have several questions as follows:

I have a character who is a sergeant in a special peacekeeping unit of the British Army, tasked with escorting humanitarian convoys to war torn areas overseas. He falls in love with his commanding officer, a captain. As a result of this, the sergeant asks for a transfer out of the Peacekeeping unit and into the Military Police, so that he's no longer under the captain's direct command, in order for them to have a relationship without being in breach of the Armed Forces' Code of Social Conduct, prohibiting personnel from having relationships with subordinates if they compromise operational effectiveness.

Is there a process for him to request this transfer? How long would it take? I presume it's possible!

The sergeant is sent back to the UK and works in the military police for three years. He goes on various training courses and is highly regarded, conscientious and very good at his job. Would he be promoted in rank in that time? Would he be in charge of people? What rank would his CO be? The sergeant eventually marries the captain, who he has maintained a relationship with. The captain has been a good, if somewhat maverick officer during those three years - would he have moved up in rank in that time? If so, to what? Can he just request a transfer back home to marry the sergeant? Or at least request a transfer out of the Peacekeeping unit back into a regular army unit in the UK? He's put in far more than the usual time there, on his own request. Is 'unit' even the right word?!

My most important questions are these: For story reasons, it's crucial that the sergeant arrests his husband (who by this time is stationed in the same army camp as the sergeant and is not an MP himself) for refusing to obey an order. It's a very serious order with important repercussions, although it's possible he can use the Nuremberg defence in his trial. The captain is a few miles away from the camp when he refuses the order. What would the process be upon his refusal? Would he be arrested in the field? Or would he be relieved of command in the field and ordered back to camp and arrested there?  How would the military police receive the order to arrest the captain? I presume the MPs wouldn't be out in the field and on hand to arrest anyone, but is that correct? Would the sergeant be high enough in rank to arrest his husband, or would they send someone more important? It's important for story reasons that he is the one doing the arresting, so I basically need a scenario where it would be realistic.

Would handcuffs be used in the arrest? Who else would be present, if anyone? Would the captain be read some form of Miranda rights? Would the captain face a court martial for refusing to obey the order? Would the captain face mutiny charges? Prison time? Dishonourable discharge?

I've done several Google searches, but this is such a specific scenario that it's quite hard to get answers, and those I have managed to find have related to the US military, which has been useful in its own way as it's a good guide to the military mindset on these matters. Search terms used:
"armed forces arrest miranda rights" (it appears some form of words is used but no Miranda rights apply).
"rank of arresting officer in the military" (it says lower ranks can arrest higher ones, but I specifically want to know if it's realistic for the sergeant to be arresting the captain in this circumstance)
"handcuffs arresting officer military police" (I think so!)
"penalty for refusing to obey a direct order british army" (it seems serious but the answers varied a lot. Mutiny seemed to be one possible charge).
I have viewed this page:

Sorry, it's a long set of questions, but I'd be grateful for your assistance with any of them!

Cross posted to: military_beta

I don't know the answer to your specific questions, but the reason you're mostly finding US-specific results is your use of the term 'miranda'. In the UK a suspect is 'cautioned' on arrest. You might want to try that in conjunction with 'military police'. 'Reading his rights' isn't UK terminology either.

Would a police officer, military or civilian, really be allowed to play a part in arresting a close relative?

Many thanks.

As for the arresting part - the future world is a bit more chaotic than ours and not as well structured but it's a good point to raise so I'll be sure to address it.

I served as an officer in the UK Royal Air Force from 1990 to 2007 (engineering rather than aircrew) so I think I can offer some comments on this.

Firstly, eighty years is a very long time in the cultural evolution of any organisation, even one as conservative as the military. Also, bear in mind that the culture of obedience to authority means, ironically, that the military can change its culture quite fast if it is simply ordered to do so. A good example is the attitude towards homosexuality in the UK armed forces. When I was a junior officer, the RAF police would quite vigorously investigate rumours that an airman or officer was gay. In the late 1990s the policy was formally reversed, and by the time I left the RAF I was serving with officers who were in openly gay relationships.

In respect of cross-rank relationships, when I joined these were forbidden. It was actually the rule that if an airman and airwoman were married, and one of them was commissioned, the other was automatically discharged. That policy was dropped in the early 1990s, to be replaced by one that they would be posted to different bases. For an officer to enter into a relationship with an airman/airwoman used to be serious misconduct; that was later replaced with the rule that they could not be in the same command chain.

To try to answer some of your questions in terms of how things are now.

- There aren't currently 'special peacekeeping units'; this is a role regular combat units are rotated through if required. You could say that the Army introduces them, but unless there is a special peacekeeper career role - which seems unlikely - it would be more likely that individual soldiers would be posted in and out of it.

- Military Police is a separate job trade from combat soldier. My experience was that such internal transfers can be done (the old-fashioned term was 're-mustering') but are rare, because you have to train someone as if he or she is a new recruit, and you end up with a soldier/airman/sailor who is inexperienced in their new job, but relatively senior compared with other recent trainees. (It can happen: I once trained a sergeant RAF Regiment gunner who had been transferred to comms technician because an injury left him unfit for his previous role, but he had actually done that job before joining the military, so he wasn't coming in completely fresh. Actually, that's a thought - perhaps your sergeant spent some time as a police officer or even a PCSO before joining up, so has some prior relevant experience.)

- At present, promotion from captain to major is selective rather than by time in rank. A mid-seniority captain could well be selected for major in the course of three years. Being a maverick isn't a bar to promotion, so long as the person in question has achieved results and not got terminally up his or her CO's nose in the process. There is a tendency in peacetime to promote the adequately competent at the expense of the risk-taking nonconformist (see this book for a really good examination of the effect of this on the Royal Navy in the Victorian era) and promotion boards are often warned not to hold the odd transgression against otherwise promising young officers.

(As an aside, I remember a presentation from a personnel officer who used to manage promotion boards, which quoted a comment written by a base commander on the annual report on a junior pilot under his command. "Come the war, Flying Officer X will win a chestful of medals. If captured, he will make the life of the POW Camp Commandant an utter living hell. Until such time, he practises on me.")


Edited at 2014-08-01 08:41 am (UTC)

This deserves the Awesome Answers tag. Seriously, it's fascinating reading and I thank you just as a passer-by!

I agree! It was a great answer and very helpful to me with my story, giving me some ideas to change it in order to work better factually :-)

(part 2, hit the comment limit!)

- The big problem you have is that in reality every effort would be made to avoid having the sergeant arrest her partner. The conflict of interest and the likelihood of serious problems arising is just too high. It's the same reason that if possible the military police sent to arrest someone will be of similar or even junior rank - it avoid the risk of a charge of assaulting a senior arising. Here, you would be putting the sergeant in a very difficult position. You would have to explain why nobody, but nobody else, could do the arrest. If ordered to, the sergeant would be bound to say that he ought not to be sent to arrest his husband.

- From what I understand, arrests of officers (unless something has gone extraordinarily wrong) are normally by being politely invited to come with the arresting officer. Resisting arrest is (as in civilian life) an offence in its own right, and one any officer would be most unlikely to want to commit.

- Yes, a sergeant can arrest a captain. All military police have delegated powers of arrest from whoever is the head of the relevant military police service. This is one of the reasons why military police, of whatever service, usually have distinctive uniforms so as to remind anyone they are dealing with that their powers are independent of their rank.

- Anyone being arrested must be read his or her rights; in the UK this is called 'being cautioned'. Failure to caution may make anything the suspect says inadmissible as evidence. The UK caution is rather different from 'Miranda' and is more about the right to remain silent (subject, in the UK, to some caveats). The explanation of someone's rights in arrest is usually given when they are processed in for detention, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

- If an officer was being arrested, especially in controversial circumstances, I would think there would be efforts to have more than one police officer / MP present, so as to ensure there was independent evidence of what happens. And that's another reason why your sergeant can't do this, because a person cannot be compelled in court to give evidence against his or her husband or wife.

[Edited because I'd not noticed that both parties here are male.]

Edited at 2014-08-01 09:45 am (UTC)

This is really helpful, thank you! And I love that quote!

I knew my scenario was problematic, hence needing help with it. I was hoping the answers might help me construct something that would work within the context of my story so it's very useful to get this kind of information.

I was wondering if the chaos of the situation might make the scenario more plausible - there is rioting taking place and the captain has been ordered to open fire on the rioters. Another option would be for him to deliberately give himself up to BE arrested by his husband - so he's choosing his husband to surrender himself to - the captain is trying to make a statement. Would that work?

I really enjoyed your comments about the cultural shifts - this is precisely what has happened in the 80 years, especially as there have also been big cultural shifts as well as other seismic shifts in the outside world. The fact that the captain and sergeant are gay men who have married is just one of those.

Re the peacekeeping unit - I was aware of the current situation but thought I'd create a special one for this particular future situation. However, I will ponder this further as it might work better to keep them as regular army.

The issue of my sergeant joining the MPs is more complex, as he wouldn't be able to be a police officer first. I'll have to give it more thought.

Thanks again for your help :-)

And to give an example of cultural assumptions, I read straight past your comment about the captain and the sergeant both being male! I've now edited my answer accordingly.



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