Obama Orders Review Of Transfers Of Military Surplus To Local Police

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Police arrest a man as they disperse a protest Wednesday for Michael Brown, who was killed by police Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo.President Obama has ordered a review of federal programs that
supply local law enforcement agencies with military weapons and
equipment after concerns over how the police handled unrest in Ferguson,
Mo., in the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown.

A
senior Obama administration official says the president “whether state
and local law enforcement are provided with the necessary training and
guidance; and whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing
the use of equipment obtained through federal programs and funding.”

The
official also says the review would include input from the Domestic
Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management
and Budget, as well as the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland
Security and Treasury.

Obama telegraphed the likelihood of a review on Monday when he urged a reexamination of such programs.

“There
is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement,
and we don’t want those lines blurred,” the president told reporters at the White House. “That would be contrary to our traditions.”

The
issue has come to the fore since the fatal shooting of Brown, an
unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer. The incident has
sparked several nights of violent protests.

As Jim Howard of St. Louis Public Radio writes:

“The
protestors were met by heavily armored combat vehicles and officers in
camouflage combat-grade body armor, some with sniper rifles. The
material came via the 1033 program, under which surplus military
hardware is made available from the Department of Defense to local law
enforcement agencies across the country.

“The images of what
appeared to be combat-ready forces arrayed against protestors flashed
around the world in news and social media reports and quickly added to
the tension on the streets.”

In June, the
American Civil Liberties Union issued a report that warned of the
excessive militarization of American law enforcement.

As we reported at the time,
the report highlighted, among other things, the growing use of SWAT
teams for such seemingly mundane tasks as serving drug warrants.

NPR

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