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Senators Slam Pentagon for Providing Military Equipment to Police

By    |   Tuesday, 09 September 2014 10:43 PM

Senators blasted the Pentagon Tuesday for providing local police with military equipment they charged helped lay the groundwork for the deadly conflict that unfolded in Ferguson, Mo., last month.

"Tell me what the difference is between an increasingly militarized police force and a standing army," Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn asked during a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, The Hill reported.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were skeptical about the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which since the 1990s has provided local police departments with more than $5 billion worth of surplus military equipment, including assault rifles, body armor, and armored vehicles, The Hill reported.

But Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul asked some of the toughest and most pointed questions of Alan Estevez, the Assistant Secretary of Defense and from Homeland Security, and FEMA's Brian Kamoie. Breitbart posted a partial transcript. 

"[C]onfronting those with armored personnel carriers is thoroughly un-American and for 150 years, we’ve had rules separating the military, keeping the military out of policing affairs," Paul said. "But you sort of obscure that separation if you allow the police to become the military."

He then pointed out "FEMA's authorized equipment list there's actually written descriptions for how the equipment should be used and it says it's specifically not supposed to be used for riot suppression."

"Mr. Kamoie, is that true, that it's not supposed to be used for riot suppression?" he asked.

"And how do you plan on policing that since the images clearly show us large pieces of equipment that were bought with your grants used in that riot suppression, or protest suppression rather?"

Kamoie agreed there’s a prohibition on using authorized equipment for riot suppression, saying, "We're going to follow the lead of the Department of Justice's investigation about the facts. We're going to work with the state of Missouri to determine what pieces of equipment were grant funded. And then we have a range of remedies available to us should there be any finding of noncompliance with those requirements."

"[M]any of the police forces think this is what the equipment is good for, is riot suppression in a big city, urban area," Paul countered. "So I think by supplying all of this free equipment, much of which is, frankly, inappropriate, really shouldn't be on anybody's list of authorized equipment."

He also asked Estevez why 12,000 bayonets have been given out to local police department, but the official said he couldn't answer "what a local police force would need a bayonet for."

"I can give you an answer," Paul shot back. "None. So, what's President Obama's administration's position on handing out bayonets to the police force? It's on your list. You guys create the list. Are you going to take it off the list or are we going to keep doing it?"

Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who called for the hearing, criticized Ferguson police for creating what looked like a "war zone," and treating protesters like “enemy combatants” in the suburb of St. Louis, where a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager Aug. 9, triggering weeks of protests.

"I think most Americans were uncomfortable watching a suburban street in St. Louis with vivid images of a war zone,” she said.

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson questioned what military equipment police would need to combat the war on drugs, Defense One reported. 

“Decisions need to be made at the local level, not by the federal government,” he said.

“We do this because we’re asked to do this,” Estevez said—a subtle jab at members of Congress, who passed the 1033 program in the first place, under the National Defense Authorization Act.

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Senators blasted the Pentagon Tuesday for providing local police with military equipment they charged helped lay the groundwork for the deadly conflict that unfolded in Ferguson, Mo., last month.
pentagon, military, equipment, police, senators
Tuesday, 09 September 2014 10:43 PM
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