The issue of militarized police forces became a focus of national debate after the response of authorities to riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and on Saturday it was announced that President Obama is launching a review of the federal program that allows used military equipment to be transferred to municipal police forces.
Video and images of police dressed in riot gear aiming sniper rifles at protesters and driving armored vehicles sparked a national conversation asking why local police forces need military equipment.
The Christian Science Monitor recently revealed that St. Louis County received a dozen M-16 rifles, seven Humvees, six Colt .45 pistols, and three helicopters through the Dept. of Defense. St. Louis has only one of thousands of local police forces receiving military equipment.
This used military equipment was supplied to the St. Louis County police by a federal program created in response to raised fears about terrorism in the homeland.
In response to concerns over the issue, though, last week Obama said, “There’s a big difference between our military and local law enforcement.”
Obama will be looking at the Defense Department’s 1033 program which authorizes the transfers. Since its inception in 2002, the DOD says that the program has transferred more than $5.1 billion worth of property. In 2013 alone the DOD transferred $449,309,003.71 worth of property to law enforcement. Other sources say the DOD has handed out $35 billion in grants since 2002.
Obama isn’t the only one in Washington looking to review this practice. On Thursday, August 21, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill announced that she would lead a Senate hearing in September to review the militarization of American police forces and the role the federal government has in that trend.
According to Reuters, the review will be led by White House staff including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, and the Office of Management and Budget.
Voices from all sides of the political spectrum have criticized the release of military hardware to local police forces.
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