A Pentagon program that gives surplus gear to local law enforcement allows departments that the Justice Department has censured for civil rights violations to apply for and get lethal weaponry, the Associated Press reports. The lack of communication between two Cabinet agencies adds to questions about a program under review after the militarized police response to protesters in Ferguson, Mo. The Justice Department has opened civil rights investigations into the practices of 20 police departments in five years. The investigations sometimes end in negotiated settlements known as consent decrees that mandate reforms. Being flagged as problematic does not bar a police department from accepting military gear.
“Given the fact that they’re under a consent decree it would make sense that the Department of Defense and Department of Justice coordinate on any such requests, (but) that is currently not the state,” said Jim Bueermann of the nonprofit Police Foundation. The Los Angeles Police Department received multiple shipments, totaling some 1,680 M16 assault rifles, under the Pentagon program, even while the department was under the watch of a federal monitor and had been accused of poor practices. The LAPD entered into a court-supervised agreement with the Justice Department in 2001 after investigators accused it of a pattern of excessive force, false arrests and unreasonable searches.