MOSCOW, September 9 (RIA Novosti) - The US Senate homeland security committee has held Tuesday the first hearings into the summer protests in Ferguson, where a police officer killed an unarmed African-American teenager.
Among the topics proposed for the discussion was the increased militarization of police, which now makes use of counter-terrorist military equipment more often than even before. US Department of Justice and the White House said they consider limiting federal programs that provided local law enforcement agencies with the kind of gear that belongs in the army.
At the hearing, Kentucky senator Rand Paul said he was shocked by the amount of military-style equipment used to suppress the Ferguson protests and demanded to close the 1033 Pentagon program that provided such gear to civilian forces in the country.
Senator Claire McCaskill said “most Americans were uncomfortable with a suburban street in St. Louis being transformed into a war zone... complete with rubber bullets, tear gas... and laser sights on assault weapons.” Moreover, McCaskill said that 36 percent of the equipment provided to the local forces “has never been used by the military.” In response, Pentagon officials said the program lacked centralized controls, and that states themselves chose what kind of equipment they needed.
The senators concluded that the transfer of military equipment to the local law enforcement agencies had little oversight. The committee is now working on the legislation that would provide more control over the federal programs, which boost the amount of military equipment in police.
Five current and one former member of the Ferguson police force face pending federal lawsuits, claiming they used excessive force during the protests held in the city over the death of a 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown, who has been shot at least six times by a police officer.
The killing triggered a wave of violent protests in Ferguson, a downtrodden suburb of St Louis of some 21,000 residents, with the demonstrators demanding the arrest of an officer.
The incident raised the issues of racial discrimination, human rights violations, as well as an increased militarization of law enforcers.
In order to suppress protesters, US policemen used armored vehicles, high-technology weaponry and stun grenades at the protests, according to media reports.
Tactics used by US police came under sharp criticism, including from US Attorney General Eric Holder. Following public criticism, Obama has ordered to review programs of military equipment sales to local police departments.
According to a study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, US citizens are widely concerned with the extensive militarization of the country’s police, stating that policemen often dangerously overreact to routine situations, resulting in death and injuries to members of the community.