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White House to review military surplus policy for law enforcement

Ferguson conflict prompts Obama to order review of transfer of military gear to local law enforcement agencies

By CHRISTI PARSONS

ubled by images of heavily armed police facing off protesters in Ferguson, Mo., President Obama is ordering a review of federal programs that help law enforcement agencies buy military equipment.

Obama wants to know whether the programs are “appropriate” for local policing and whether police are given the training and guidance needed to use military-grade equipment properly, a senior administration official said Saturday.

The review, to be led by White House staff, will also look into whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of the equipment it helps facilitate, according to the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the president’s in-house directive.

             
After seeing images of the police gear in video footage, Obama asked senior advisors to look into the programs that provided them. He also spoke about the images in a news conference with reporters a week after Brown’s death. Some post-9/11 equipment upgrades have been useful, he said, noting in particular the improvements to radio communications and to equipment for dealing with hazardous material.

But Obama said he wanted to make sure that what police are buying is “stuff that they actually need.”

He also warned that “there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don’t want those lines blurred. That would be contrary to our traditions.”

Lets hope that between Rep. Johnson's proposal to end this program in the congress, and the White House Review that this ill conceived program spawned in the wave of hysteria that followed the 9/11 attack will finally be halted.

Tell Congress: Pass the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. No more Fergusons!

From earlier this week:

Reforming the program that has militarized police will be an uphill fight

by Meteor Blades

Although the hurdles to getting this modest legislation passed are high, there is some sense of movement in the matter. Unnamed congressional aides say support will grow for Johnson's proposal or similar legislation. Getting there will require amplifying the voices of the likes of Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, who says that wartime weapons are inappropriate for use "against our own citizens when there is civil unrest and civil protest. Even if it got to the point where it did where they are breaking some glass, that's no reason to come with the amount of force and appearance that was brought by the police in Ferguson."

Indeed, it's not. But we can expect repeats of situations like Ferguson's and against protesters elsewhere as long as police are armed and uniformed like soldiers and act akin to invading armies instead of community protectors. To reiterate what I've said before, it will take more than a change in hardware to fix the police. But de-militarizing local law enforcement would be a good start.

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