In the wake of the ongoing clashes in Ferguson, Mo., President Barack Obama said Monday that there would likely be bipartisan interest in re-examining the federal programs that help funnel military-grade equipment to local and state law enforcement.
“I think it’s probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars to make sure that what they’re purchasing is stuff that they actually need,” he said at a Monday press conference. “I think there will be some bipartisan interest in reexamining some of those programs.”
Images of Ferguson protesters confronted by police officers outfitted in what appeared to be military equipment has stirred significant controversy in the last week. Civil rights groups have recently warned that federal programs, like the 1033 program that gives away surplus military gear to local police for free, have resulted in what they called a militarized police force.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) has pledged to introduce a bill reining in the 1033 program since the Ferguson protests captured the nation’s attention, while some Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have called for a de-militarization of the police force.
“One of the great things about the United States has been our ability to maintain a distinction between our military and domestic law enforcement,” Obama said. “That helps preserve our civil liberties. That helps ensure that the military is accountable to civilian direction. And that has to be preserved.”