Obama orders review of military equipment supplied to police

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President Obama ordered the review of federal programs that provide military equipment to local law enforcement amid criticism of police tactics in Ferguson, Mo.

The White House confirmed the review but said no other information is available since the details are still taking shape.

The New York Times first reported the review would look into whether the administration should continue with the policy, which supplies equipment such as generators to M-16s and mine resistant vehicles to local law enforcement.  

The review, according to senior administration officials cited in the newspaper, will also look at whether local police units are receiving proper training for the equipment they receive and whether that equipment is being effectively tracked. 

It will look at Justice Department grants to police, according to The Times.   

Police militarization has received increased criticism in recent weeks amid images of protesters clashing with heavily armored police in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have called for the demilitarization of local police in Ferguson and around the country, with hearings and legislation expected to be rolled out in September. 

Though arrests in Ferguson have decreased in the last few days, the initial images caused widespread criticism. 

The issue has united some of the left with potential presidential candidates such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who in an op-ed this month blamed Washington for “using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies.”

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have both expressed concern over the apparent deployment of military equipment in Ferguson. 

The Pentagon's 1033 program under review was set up in the late 1990s to supply surplus military equipment to law enforcement and was expanded after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The review will also look at the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. The Times describes the Justice Department grant as a leading way for police to buy weapons and other equipment. 

Holder told The Times in a statement that much of the equipment has been transferred to forces as they were increasingly asked to assist in counterterrorism. 

But he said it makes sense to review the program because "displays of force in response to mostly peaceful demonstrations can be counterproductive.” 

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said her hearing next month would focus on the Pentagon program and some Homeland Security grants given to local police.  

Earlier this month, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) used the clashes to promote legislation he will introduce in September to scale back the Pentagon program. 

Johnson said his bill would limit the type of equipment that could be transferred and would make sure states track all equipment received.

More than $4 billion in discounted military equipment has been passed along to police departments since the program was started.

Since 2007, Ferguson has received two Humvees, a generator and a cargo trailer, according to the Pentagon. Broader St. Louis County has received three helicopters, seven Humvees, a bomb detecting robot, six pistols, 12 rifles and 15 sights for weapons.