Critics such as Sen. Claire McCaskill say the initial police response in Ferguson, Mo., actually made things worse because cops were equipped like soldiers of war. No wonder, write Elizabeth Beavers and Michael Shank in the New York Times. The Pentagon and Homeland Security Department are keeping police forces across the nation awash in surplus military gear and vehicles. Under something called the 1033 program enacted in 1997, the defense department has provided $4 billion worth of military equipment to law enforcement agencies over that span. Homeland Security, meanwhile, has doled out $34 billion in "terrorism grants" so police departments can armor up.
The problem? Police departments have begun sending out officers with such gear for routine operations such as drug raids or to serve search warrants, the authors write. "As Ferguson shows, this militarizing of routine police work exacerbates tensions and increases the likelihood of disorder. This, in turn, appears to justify a militarized police response, and so the cycle continues." Solution? Kill the 1033 program and tell Homeland Security to stop those grants. "Police militarization is a growing national threat," they write. "If the federal government doesn’t act to stop it, the future of law enforcement everywhere will look a lot like Ferguson." Click for the full column. (Read more Ferguson, Missouri stories.)