- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 17, 2014

Police forces are not only turning to military-style equipment to take on law enforcement tasks, but sometimes aren’t even trained properly in how to use the weapons of war, the congressman who represents the St. Louis suburb that has been ensnared in a week of violence said Sunday.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are increasingly having second thoughts about federal programs that give police access to the kind of weaponry that authorities trained on civilians in Ferguson, Missouri, last week in the early days of protests over the killing of a black man by a white police officer.

“Policing is something where you are involved with the community if it’s succeeding. And in those situations where folks are rolling up heavily armored and they’re pointing guns at folks, that’s impossible to have a dialogue,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, told ABC’s “This Week” program. “There are times when force is necessary, but we really felt that that push at that time was a little aggressive, obviously, and those images were not what we were trying to get to.”

SEE ALSO: The freedom food chain goes amok in Ferguson

Top members of Congress have vowed to take a look at the Defense Department program that sends surplus M-16A2 rifles and 40,000-pound vehicles armored to withstand mine blasts to police departments across the country.

Rep. William Lacy Clay, the Missouri Democrat whose district includes Ferguson, said the federal government doesn’t do enough to make sure police know how to use what they are given.

“I have gotten word that some of these police departments who have received this equipment have not been properly trained in its use by the military,” Mr. Clay told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

SEE ALSO: Missouri Gov. Nixon: I was ‘thunderstruck’ by military-like response in Ferguson

Former New York Police Chief Bernard Kerik agreed, saying many departments that accept the equipment “don’t know what they’re getting.”

It has been more than a week since 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

State officials and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating the shooting, and more than 40 FBI agents are in Ferguson interviewing witnesses, some of whom say Mr. Brown had his hands up and was surrendering to authorities when he was shot. Some in the community have called for the officer to be charged with murder.

The Justice Department said Sunday that it will conduct its own autopsy on Mr. Brown’s body, suggesting a lack of faith in the state’s autopsy. Administration officials say President Obama has been receiving regular updates on the case while on vacation in Massachusetts.

Mr. Nixon has imposed a nighttime curfew on Ferguson, but that didn’t stop flare-ups Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Police fired smoke grenades into a crowd that was defying the curfew, and local reports said one person was badly injured in a shooting.

Police said they are trying to show more restraint after coming under heavy criticism for the use of military-style force in the streets and efforts to frame Mr. Brown as a villain. Police over the weekend released video footage suggesting that Mr. Brown robbed a convenience store just before he was confronted and shot by police.

An overflow crowd packed the Greater Grace Church in Ferguson on Sunday for a memorial service that included Mr. Brown’s parents, according to local news accounts. The Rev. Al Sharpton told the gathering that “the issue is how a young man was shot multiple times. We want to know where justice is.”

The civil rights activist and MSNBC host said he was planning a march in Washington to deal with the issue of policing standards.

Some lawmakers have defended police access to military equipment, saying departments have found themselves outgunned in some instances and needed more firepower.

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