WASHINGTON– President Barack Obama has ordered a review of programs enabling state and local enforcement to buy military equipment, a senior administration official said Saturday.
The decision follows public criticism of the use of such assets — including armored vehicles, high-tech weaponry and stun grenades — recently in Ferguson, Missouri.
Such force to calm violent protests, in aftermath of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, raised questions about what some refer to as the “militarization of police.”
Acquisition of military surplus equipment by local police departments became possible through the military’s Defense Logistics Agency, a law enforcement support program established in 1999.
But, once in the hands of these departments, it’s “up to local law enforcement to determine how and when and where and under what circumstances they use excess military equipment,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said earlier this week.
On Monday, Obama signaled the program may be due a look.
“There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don’t want those lines blurred,” he said. “That would be contrary to our traditions.”
The review, that has now been ordered, will explore whether such programs and funding are appropriate, whether state and local enforcement agencies have the necessary training and guidance after getting such equipment; and whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of equipment obtained through federal programs and funding.
White House staff — including members of the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget — will lead the review in coordination with Congress, according to the official.