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Pentagon: Esper concerned about law enforcement officers wearing military garb

Pentagon: Esper concerned about law enforcement officers wearing military garb
© Greg Nash

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command MORE has expressed concern within the administration about federal law enforcement officers wearing military-style uniforms while responding to protests.

Esper has not directly raised his concerns with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but he has expressed concerns within the administration, Esper’s spokesman said Tuesday.

“We saw this take place back in June when there were some law enforcement that wear uniforms that make them appear military in appearance," chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday.

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"The secretary has expressed a concern of this within the administration that we want a system where people can tell the difference,” he said. “I’m not aware of any direct conversations with DHS on this particular deployment or their particular operations in Portland over the last week or so.”

Hoffman also stressed “unequivocally” that no Pentagon assets have been or are planning to be deployed to Portland.

The comments come as top Democrats are demanding answers after reports of federal law enforcement officers wearing military-style fatigues apprehending protesters in Portland without identifying themselves. Some protesters have been held for hours without being charged or read their Miranda rights.

Trump has doubled down by threatening to deploy federal agents to other U.S. cities, such as Chicago.

But several top House Democrats have asked inspectors general to investigate whether federal law enforcement officers have violated the constitutional rights of protesters.

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A trio of top Democrats, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithHigh alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday Overnight Defense: Tim Kaine moves to claw back war powers authority | Study on sexual harassment and assault in the military Commissioners tasked with scrubbing Confederate base names sworn-in at first meeting MORE (D-Wash.), on Monday also expressed concern that by wearing military-style uniforms, the law enforcement agents “sully the reputation of members of our Armed Forces who were not involved.”

Similar concerns were raised in June during the height of nationwide protests against racial injustice, particularly after federal law enforcement agents forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square across the White House

After the June protests, Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee in July they have learned of the need to better differentiate between law enforcement and the military. Milley specifically raised the issue of uniforms.

“Our guys are wearing, you know, camouflage uniforms; some of these police are in blue uniforms, others in camouflage, others are in solid green,” Milley said in early July. “You want a clear definition between that which is military and that which is police, in my view.”