Obama preparing executive order on police militarization

W.H.: Programs useful, can't go unchecked
W.H.: Programs useful, can't go unchecked

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Story highlights

  • Obama is planning an executive order on police militarization
  • Concerns have been expressed about level of response to Ferguson protests
  • Obama won't call for end to flow of equipment to police department
President Barack Obama, responding to concerns over the use of military-style equipment during protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the summer, is asking aides to prepare an executive order that would better track the weapons and gear flowing from the federal government to local police departments around the nation.
The order, which he's expected to preview Monday afternoon during a meeting with law enforcement and local government officials, would mandate federal agencies review the way they provide U.S. police with heavy equipment like tanks and aircraft.
A report issued by the White House found the vast majority of material coming from the Department of Defense to police departments wasn't military-style: it included office supplies, furniture and tents.
But 4% of the Pentagon's output to police departments is military grade, including 92,442 small arms, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft.
Other agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, also provide police with equipment and funds.
The executive action, which was described by White House officials ahead of Obama's announcement, is the conclusion of a review process Obama launched in August following the heavily armed response to protesters in Ferguson. Images of tear-gassed filled streets patrolled by police in tanks sparked concern that local departments were treating citizens like enemy combatants.
Officials said following the reviews, agencies could require better tracking of the equipment that ends up with police, require training for officers, and mandate reviews following "significant" incidents in which the equipment is used.
But officials said the president wouldn't tamp down on the flow of equipment from the Pentagon to police departments since the bulk of the gear isn't military grade.
Instead, they said Obama would convene a task force on policing, focused on combating crime while building public trust in local law enforcement agencies. Charles Ramsey, the police commissioner of Philadelphia, will head the panel.
The White House will also ask for $263 million to provide police departments with body cameras, which advocates say would provide a clearer picture of confrontations like the incident in Ferguson, in which a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. The funds would also go toward training.