Ferguson Effect: Obama Orders Review of Police Weapons And Wonders Why They Need Military Hardware

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By Kalyan Kumar | August 25, 2014 3:00 PM EST

Close on the heels of the Ferguson ethnic riots, US President Barack Obama has ordered a high-level review of the military hardware supplied to state and local police in the US. The concern comes after the alleged high-handed use of such equipments during the racial unrest that broke out in Ferguson.

Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts during his vacation August 20, 2014. Obama on Wednesday condemned the Islamic State militants who beheaded an American journalist as "a cancer" and said "their ideology is bankrupt." "The whole world is appalled by the brutal murder of James Foley," Obama said, speaking a day after the militants released a video of Foley being beheaded. Obama said he called Foley's family to express his condolences.

Reuters report quoted a senior official in the Obama administration who said the review will go into the whole gamut of federal programmes that fund state and local law enforcement agencies in terms of arms and equipment.  

Online Petition

It may be recalled that 25,000 people had signed an online petition last week, calling upon President Obama to eliminate the Pentagon programme that arms local police in towns like Ferguson with military equipments lsuch as M-16s, armoured tanks and MRAPs, reported the Fiscal Times.

Under Pentagon's 1033 Programme, military equipment worth $4.3 billion is transferred to police departments. It came under scrutiny in recent days after the cops in Ferguson transformed themselves into soldiers on the battlefield.

Thus, scenes of police flaunting military guns shocked many peace-loving Americans. The racial clashes and violence erupted after the shooting of a black teenager named Michael Brown by a white police officer.

Points of Review

The controversial 1033 Programmes were enabled for police after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Centre.  Under the programme, more than $4 billion worth equipment in vehicles, rifles and night-vision equipment were transferred in the last 8 years.

Mr Obama wants to know whether proper training is involved in the state and local law enforcements in the use of such arms. The review will be undertaken by agencies that include Domestic Policy Council, National Security Council, Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, in coordination with the Congress.

mr Obama wanted to make sure that the equipment supplied to police were relevant to them and they actually needed it. Obama perceives a big difference in the methods of military and local law enforcement and does not want to see those lines blurred.

Militarisation of Police

Under the Pentagon's 1033 programme, the surplus military equipment has to be transferred to local and state authorities. A clause in the programme also mandates the police to use the equipment within a year.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, this clause is dangerous and gives police forces the propensity to use the equipment at inappropriate contexts. The programme also lacks a mandate for training crowd-control situations.

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(Photo: Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts during his vacation August 20, 2014. Obama on Wednesday condemned the Islamic State militants who beheaded an American journalist as "a cancer" and said "their ideology is bankrupt." "The whole world is appalled by the brutal murder of James Foley," Obama said, speaking a day after the militants released a video of Foley being beheaded. Obama said he called Foley's family to express his condolences.
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