With lawmakers on the left and right questioning the militarization of law enforcement after two weeks of violence in Ferguson, Mo., Sen. Claire McCaskill announced she will hold hearings next month on the federal programs supplying local authorities with surplus military gear.
The Missouri Democrat, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, plans to take a broad look at programs like the Defense Department’s 1033 program that have steered surplus equipment to local police departments.
That DOD program has come under particular scrutiny from other lawmakers. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, last week said he would review the program, which is part of the defense authorization bill, before it gets to the Senate floor “to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.” McCaskill “plans to gather stakeholders from all sides in order to hear several perspectives, including those of local law enforcement,” the release said. “Details of McCaskill’s hearing will be available in the coming days.”
News of the hearing comes after McCaskill last week called for the authorities to deescalate the situation by not using military equipment.
“We need to de-militarize this situation — this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution,” McCaskill said last week. “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.”
The unrest was sparked by the fatal Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager.
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