A month after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson raised questions about the militarization of police, the Senate Homeland Security Committee has started questioning federal agencies providing equipment to those departments.
Senator McCaskill had asked for the hearings after seeing what she calls “aggressive actions against protestors under the umbrella of “crowd control”
She says she saw armored vehicles with a sniper pointing a sniper rifle at peaceful protestors. She thinks the images that went around the world made most Americans uncomfortable as they watched a suburban St. Louis street transformed into a war zone.
McCaskill questions the defense department’s donations of Mine-Resistant Ambush-Resistant vehicles developed for wartime Iraq. “In Texas, for example,” she says, “local law enforcement agencies have 73 MRAPs. The National Guard has only six. In Florida local law enforcement agencies have 45 MRAPs. The National Guard has zero.”
MRAP is an acronym for a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, an armored vehicle designed to withstand mines and roadside bombs. Their weight, she says, is 14-18 tons, enough to damage city streets.
She cites Defense Department figures showing more than one-third of all military equipment going to local law enforcement is listed as “new,” and questions why the military continues to buy equipment is giving away. A department spokesman says some of the equipment was needed when ordered but became surplus because of military cutbacks.
The opening of the hearing, with Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and McCaskill: