The practice of transferring military equipment to local police departments is coming under increasing scrutiny by members of Congress incensed over images emanating from Ferguson, Mo., Politico reports. The use of military-style weaponry in the St. Louis suburb, deployed in the wake of demonstrations over the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparked stern condemnations from lawmakers in both parties.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mi.) said the Senate will review the Defense Department program that allows military weaponry to trickle down to police departments small and large. Congress's “1033” program allows the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement, such as the armored vehicles seen on the streets of Ferguson as well as machine guns, magazines and grenade launchers. Another senior lawmaker on the committee, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), is also examining the program. cCaskill successfully called for police in Ferguson to “demilitarize” and is now in talks with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) over introducing a Senate companion bill to his proposal to end the transfer of military arms to law enforcement agencies.