President Obama has directed a review of the federal programs that send surplus military and other supplies and equipment to local law enforcement agencies, a White House spokesman confirmed Saturday.
The review, which will be led by the Office of Management and Budget and other White House offices, sprang from widespread concern about the military-style body armor and vehicles police in Ferguson, Mo., used in their early confrontations with protesters rioting over the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
It will weigh whether the programs should continue and whether police and local law enforcement have the right training and guidance to use the equipment.
The White House will coordinate its review with Congressional oversight hearings and possible legislation. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., announced hearings on the programs when Congress returns in September, and Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., has written a bill that would place restrictions on the program and try to ensure that police have the right training to use the equipment.
images over the last week of police in body armor and armored vehicles pointing guns at protesters in Ferguson alarmed advocates for greater civil liberties on the right and left.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a leading critic of the national Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance programs, last week said the Ferguson police appeared to be taking on military-style tactics in their efforts to control protests and looting.
“There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response,” he wrote in an op-ed for Time magazine. “The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.”