Concerns about the militarization of police — highlighted this month during protestor clashes with police in Ferguson, Mo. following the shooting death of Michael Brown — will be a topic of debate in Washington when lawmakers return in September.
Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight, announced she will lead a hearing on the matter to look at federal programs that supply local police departments with military-grade equipment.
McCaskill, who — along with her Republican colleague Missouri Republican have spoken with President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder about the situation in Ferguson — called for the police in Ferguson to “de-militarize” last week.
“We need to de-militarize this situation–this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution. I obviously respect law enforcement’s work to provide public safety, but my constituents are allowed to have peaceful protests, and the police need to respect that right and protect that right. Today is going to be a new start, we can and need to do better.”
Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said last week that his committee will also be looking at the program before the defense authorization bill comes up for a vote.
“Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals,” he said. “We intended this equipment to keep police officers and their communities safe from heavily armed drug gangs and terrorist incidents.
“Before the defense authorization bill comes to the Senate floor, we will review this program to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended,” he added.