White House orders review of police 'militarization' programs

The White House will conduct a review of programs that have equipped local police departments with military gear from the Pentagon, as Obama announces he will send three officials on Monday to the funeral of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen shot by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer.

Images of heavily armed police confronting protesters in Ferguson, Mo., spark decision

Police in combat gear take up position to control demonstrators who were protesting the killing of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 12. Images like these have sparked a review of programs channelling weapons from the Pentagon to local police departments. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)


  • President Barack Obama sending three representatives to Michael Brown funeral.
  • Protesters march arm-in-arm with police in fourth day of calm in Ferguson, Mo.

The White House is conducting a review of programs that have equipped local police departments with military gear from the Pentagon, urged by President Barack Obama's call for more separation between the nation's armed forces and civilian law enforcement.

The examination comes in the aftermath of the police response to unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the police killing of Michael Brown, 18, an unarmed black man.

Two senior administration officials said Saturday the review will examine:

  • Whether the programs are appropriate.
  • How much training is being provided to police using military equipment.
  • How well the government is auditing the use of the money and equipment by local police.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the review by name.
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      The review will be led by White House staff including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and agencies including the departments of Defence, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury. The officials say the review will be co-ordinated with Congress, where several lawmakers have called for a re-examination of the military-to-police programs.

      On Monday, Obama acknowledged that the images of police armed with combat weapons confronting protesters in Ferguson made it useful to review how local law enforcement agencies have used federal grants that permit them to obtain heavier armaments.

      "There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don't want those lines blurred," Obama told reporters at the White House. "That would be contrary to our traditions."

      Funeral on Monday

      In another development, Obama is sending three White House officials to Brown's funeral service in Ferguson on Monday.

      Leading the group for Monday's service will be the chairman of the My Brother's Keeper Task Force, Broderick Johnson. My Brother's Keeper is an Obama initiative that aims to empower young minorities. Johnson is also the secretary for the cabinet.

      Also attending will be the deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Marlon Marshall, and an adviser for the office, Heather Foster. Marshall is a St. Louis native and attended school with Brown's mother.

      And in Ferguson, a diverse group of protesters, many of them children, marched peacefully Saturday as calm prevailed for a fourth straight day following  more than a week of unrest after Brown's death.
      Several community activists walked side-by-side with police officers in uniform along one of the streets that had been filled with armoured vehicles and officers in riot gear less than a week ago.