Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is calling for the demilitarization of the nation's police forces following severe unrest in Ferguson, Mo., warning in an op-ed for Time magazine of a "systemic problem with today’s law enforcement."
"Anyone who thinks that race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. And the root of the problem is big government," Paul begins in his op-ed before warning that the scenes in Ferguson "resemble war more than traditional police action."
"There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response," he writes. "Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement."
Paul, who has sought to reach out to minority voters and help the GOP broaden its tent in recent months, also warned that the increased militarization of police forces was undercutting Americans' civil liberties, especially those of minorities.
"Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them," he writes. "This is part of the anguish we are seeing in the tragic events outside of St. Louis, Missouri. It is what the citizens of Ferguson feel when there is an unfortunate and heartbreaking shooting like the incident with Michael Brown."
Paul's comments follow days of tense protests and highly charged police actions following the killing of Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another 2016 hopeful, also weighed in on the ongoing tensions earlier on Thursday to criticize the arrests of two reporters, though he was careful not to choose sides between protestors and police. President Obama is set to address the situation Thursday.