Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper wants there to be a clear, visible difference between local police officers and military personnel as uniformed officers in cities across the country are appearing at demonstrations in camouflage.
Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman told reporters Tuesday that the secretary has raised concerns of the visual similarities between military uniforms and police uniforms after federal agents in Portland, Oregon, were seen confronting protesters in uniforms that mimicked those worn by U.S. troops.
“We want a system where people can tell the difference,” Mr. Hoffman said, adding that Mr. Esper wants the issue of police officers wearing camouflage to be reviewed. “I can say unequivocally there are no Department of Defense assets that have been deployed to, pending deployment to, or we’re looking to deploy to Portland.”
The city has seen a recent surge in peaceful protests as well as violent crime in the wake of the racial justice upheaval and calls to defund police departments.
The White House has deployed federal officers to quell rioting in Portland and has insisted that the federal forces are necessary to stop the marauding mobs in Portland, but civil libertarians object to reports that unidentified officers are sweeping people up and detaining them.
“There are some law enforcement [who] wear uniforms that make them appear military,” Mr. Hoffman said. “The secretary has expressed his concern with this within the administration.”
The issue is not unique to the situation in Portland, however. Mr. Hoffman explained defense officials had expressed concerns about police officers who were sent to anti-racism protests across the country in June who wore military-style uniforms that appeared similar to those worn by National Guard troops.
Mr. Hoffman said that Mr. Esper “has expressed his concern that in some cases law enforcement appropriately performing law enforcement duties were misconstrued with military personnel, who would not be appropriately doing those [responsibilities].”