Police being targeted by Congress

Several bills to blunt the militarization of local police forces are under consideration in Congress as lawmakers try and out do themselves in criticizing the tactics and equipment of law enforcement around the country.

The Hill:

Lawmakers are targeting police with new and old pieces of legislation in the wake of riots in a St. Louis suburb sparked by the killing by a police officer of an unarmed black teenager.

Much of the focus has been on the heavy military equipment many local police agencies have received from the Pentagon under a 1991 law meant to combat drug dealers.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday that program will not get a rubber stamp when it comes up for reauthorization later this year.

Other lawmakers have raised concerns about racial profiling and excessive force against African Americans by police.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) called for passage of his End Racial Profiling Act, which would bar federal funding for law enforcement agencies unless the prohibit racial profiling.

The involvement of Cardin and Levin, who represent states far from Ferguson, Mo., the St. Louis suburb where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed last Saturday, illustrates how the events in Missouri have reverberated throughout the country.

Demonstrations and protests about the police’s actions in Ferguson were held in dozens of cities on Thursday night, highlighting the pressure lawmakers around the country are feeling.

Six New York lawmakers have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the killing of Eric Garner, who died in an altercation with Staten Island police who had placed him in a chokehold. 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a prospective Republican candidate for president in 2016, has led bipartisan calls to demilitarize the police. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned Friday that “equipping police officers with the tools of war does nothing to repair a torn community.”

And Levin (D-Mich.) said he would review a Pentagon program that provides weapons and heavy military equipment to police units.

Under the program, which serves 8,000 state and federal agencies, more than $5 billion worth of property was transferred to law enforcement, including nearly $450 million last year alone, according to the Defense Logistic Agency's website. 

No doubt, some reform is necessary. And some localities have wasted a ton of money on equipment they don't need.

But Congress rarely legislates prudently, or intelligently. The danger is that they will emasculate police forces, preventing them from confronting well armed criminals and putting their lives in danger.
 
There's a reason the cops increased their firepower and capability; the criminals did too. Call it an arms race where it is vital the police maintain an advantage. The way some lawmakers are talking, I don't think Congress will be able to strike an intelligent balance between what police need to stay safe and what they can do without.
 

Several bills to blunt the militarization of local police forces are under consideration in Congress as lawmakers try and out do themselves in criticizing the tactics and equipment of law enforcement around the country.

The Hill:

Lawmakers are targeting police with new and old pieces of legislation in the wake of riots in a St. Louis suburb sparked by the killing by a police officer of an unarmed black teenager.

Much of the focus has been on the heavy military equipment many local police agencies have received from the Pentagon under a 1991 law meant to combat drug dealers.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday that program will not get a rubber stamp when it comes up for reauthorization later this year.

Other lawmakers have raised concerns about racial profiling and excessive force against African Americans by police.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) called for passage of his End Racial Profiling Act, which would bar federal funding for law enforcement agencies unless the prohibit racial profiling.

The involvement of Cardin and Levin, who represent states far from Ferguson, Mo., the St. Louis suburb where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed last Saturday, illustrates how the events in Missouri have reverberated throughout the country.

Demonstrations and protests about the police’s actions in Ferguson were held in dozens of cities on Thursday night, highlighting the pressure lawmakers around the country are feeling.

Six New York lawmakers have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the killing of Eric Garner, who died in an altercation with Staten Island police who had placed him in a chokehold. 

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a prospective Republican candidate for president in 2016, has led bipartisan calls to demilitarize the police. 

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned Friday that “equipping police officers with the tools of war does nothing to repair a torn community.”

And Levin (D-Mich.) said he would review a Pentagon program that provides weapons and heavy military equipment to police units.

Under the program, which serves 8,000 state and federal agencies, more than $5 billion worth of property was transferred to law enforcement, including nearly $450 million last year alone, according to the Defense Logistic Agency's website. 

No doubt, some reform is necessary. And some localities have wasted a ton of money on equipment they don't need.

But Congress rarely legislates prudently, or intelligently. The danger is that they will emasculate police forces, preventing them from confronting well armed criminals and putting their lives in danger.
 
There's a reason the cops increased their firepower and capability; the criminals did too. Call it an arms race where it is vital the police maintain an advantage. The way some lawmakers are talking, I don't think Congress will be able to strike an intelligent balance between what police need to stay safe and what they can do without.
 

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