- The Washington Times - Friday, August 15, 2014

The top Senate Democrat overseeing the military said Friday that Congress will reexamine the programs that allow state and local authorities to buy or borrow military equipment, as the backlash against heavily armed and armored police grows.

Officials ranging from Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to Sen. Rand Paul have criticized police use of military equipment to quell protests in Ferguson, Missouri, this week, and Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it’s time to review the federal government’s role in aiding the spread of the equipment.

“We intended this equipment to keep police officers and their communities safe from heavily armed drug gangs and terrorist incidents,” he said. “Before the defense authorization bill comes to the Senate floor, we will review this program to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.”

Several federal programs help siphon military-style equipment to local police, including one program that lends surplus weapons and vehicles to departments, and another that allows police to buy equipment through the federal government in order to take advantage of federal bulk discounts.

The programs offer everything from M16 rifles to 40,000-pound mine-resistant armored trucks. Also available are night vision goggles and body armor.

The programs were generally started as a way of helping police match firepower with drug cartels, but police are now able to use the equipment for homeland security or emergency response needs.

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