McCaskill to chair Ferguson-themed hearing on militarization of police

August 28, 2014

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) speaks to reporters after addressing a forum of residents and faith and community leaders who were discussing unrest in the town of Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 14. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In response to weeks of turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., one of Missouri's senators is planning to lead a hearing on concerns about the militarization of local police forces once Congress reconvenes next month.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who chairs a Senate subcommittee on federal financial and contracting oversight, plans to use her perch to examine federal programs that allow local police departments to purchase surplus property and equipment from the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice. The hearing is expected to include testimony from federal officials responsible for the programs and local law enforcement officials who've used the programs to purchase equipment, according to an announcement from her office.

McCaskill was one of the lawmakers to call on Ferguson-area officials to "demilitarize" the police response to local outrage over the shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown. In the wake of the incident, she also kept in close touch with the White House, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and other federal officials. Several other lawmakers, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have raised concerns that the federal programs used by local law enforcement agencies not only give local police unnecessary access to military-style equipment, but also are a form of "earmarking," or federal spending that lawmakers can help direct to communities in their districts or home states. Earmarking has been banned by both chambers in recent years in response to concerns about excessive spending and abuse tied to the practice.

The hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be held Sept. 9 at 10:30 a.m., according to McCaskill's office.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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