Sen. Rand Paul penned an editorial piece on Thursday, blaming big government for incentivizing local police forces to snatch up surplus military equipment, and causing what he says is excessive police force on protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
“If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot,” the Kentucky Republican wrote for Time magazine.
“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,” the senator said.
Mr. Paul’s comments come after reports and video showed tear gas and rubber bullets being fired at protesters in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Tensions remain high as residents in the predominantly black neighborhood question why a police officer shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown, 18, during an altercation.
Citing a “systemic” problem with local law enforcement, Mr. Paul argued that the lines have been blurred between police response and a military one.
“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action,” the senator wrote. “Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem.”
Mr. Paul argued against a Department of Defense’s surplus program that has allowed local police agencies all over the country to acquire military castoffs at a discount, or even for free.
“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands,” he said.
“It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime,” Mr. Paul concluded. “It is quite another for them to subsidize it. Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security.”