Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said on Thursday in a Time magazine op-ed that the events in Ferguson, Mo., meant that it was time to “de-militarize the police.”
“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. “The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action.”
Paul blamed in part the federal programs that allow local law enforcement to obtain military-style equipment.
“Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies,” he wrote, “where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.”
“The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm,” he continued. “It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it.”
He also touched on the racial component of the Ferguson protests, sparked when unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown was shot by police. The police force in Ferguson is almost entirely white, while the community is two-thirds black.
Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them,” Paul wrote. “Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”
“Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention,” he wrote. “Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.”
“Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security,” Paul concluded. “This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”