President Obama opened the door Monday to re-evaluating a massive Defense Department program that sends military equipment to local police forces, in the wake of concerns about the St. Louis County Police Department’s response to riots and protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
“There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don’t want those lines blurred,” Obama said.
The concerns are connected to a U.S. military program that gives away free military gear to local law enforcement (including those in the St. Louis suburb). According to the Defense Department, a total of 8,000 agencies at all levels of government participate in the so-called 1033 program. Since its start in 1997, the program has transferred more than $4.3 billion in equipment to these agencies. Last year, nearly $450 million worth was transferred.
Some lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, have questioned the program in the wake of the Ferguson unrest.
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