Senators criticized federal programs that outfit police departments with military gear, saying they waste funds and sow mistrust between law enforcement and the communities they police, the Wall Street Journal reports. At a hearing yesterday to examine what critics call police militarization, members of the Senate’s homeland-security committee expressed deep skepticism toward some equipment used by local police departments. The issue gained attention amid the police response to protests in Ferguson, Mo., over the killing of an unarmed black teenager by police. The Obama administration is reviewing federal programs that equip local departments.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) singled out a one-man police department in Michigan she said had received 13 assault weapons. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) criticized the 14,000 bayonets the Pentagon distributed to local law enforcement for reasons he couldn’t fathom. “Giving military-grade weapons to every police force and every officer comes with costs,” McCaskill said. “Officers dressed in military fatigues will not be viewed as partners in any community.” Officials testifying from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice defended aspects of the programs. They said they were providing what Congress had authorized or what state and local departments said they needed.