23 August 2014

Pentagon Facing Heavy Criticism with Ferguson


The civilians of Ferguson, MO were outraged after a white policeman killed an innocent, unarmed black man on August 9. As a result, fights broke out between the police and the locals. Consequently, the Pentagon decided to arm the police departments with military equipment. This isn’t new though. Ever since President Barack Obama came into office, the Pentagon has sent several thousands of magazines, camouflage pieces, silencers, and equipment for night-vision, as well as aircraft and armored cars. 

This program is called the 1033 Program. The Pentagon has faced heavy criticism on this initiative, but they have duly defended it. This program is not unsupervised and random. The military equipment is available to all law enforcement agencies if they wish to facilitate themselves with it, provided they qualify for it. Program 1033 avails the military equipment that is no longer required by the Army for law enforcements. The state and local agencies apply for specific equipment and give ample reasons for their need to the Defense Logistics Agency. 

After the incident on August 9, Pentagon sent equipment to the police of Ferguson. Since the police retorted heavily to the protesting civilians, it lead to more violent outbreaks in Ferguson, lasting for about 10 days. Because of the 1033 Program, some feel that the distinction between law enforcement and military is becoming blurry. However, the Pentagon and several law enforcement agencies disagree. 

To begin with, the local law enforcement agencies are supplied with the equipment only if they apply for it. Their application is accepted only if they have good enough reason to use the equipment. So all the equipment is authorized and not just randomly distributed to anyone who requires it. Secondly, if the police believe that the equipment will help them save lives and do their jobs in a better way and the state seems to agree with their needs, it is definitely a good thing to let them have it. Thirdly, the Pentagon provides the material only on request. It is then the responsibility of the police agencies to use the equipment wisely and for the right reasons. The Pentagon and the Program 1033 cannot be held responsible for the usage of these materials.

However, the public believes the protests in Ferguson were dealt with much more severity than necessary and that was because the police showed up, all armed in military gear, to tackle the protesting civilians. Meanwhile, the Ferguson police say that they were heavily gunned when they arrived on the scene. They arrested 31 people and two civilians were shot. The police, on their part, did not open fire on anyone and did not suffer any injuries. 

Still, many continue to question the wisdom of the 1033 Program. As a result of the public outrage, President Obama is having the program reviewed. So far, no such steps have been taken. The Pentagon may have started the program with a good intention, but the skirmishes in Ferguson are turning people against it. What are your thoughts on militarizing the police?

Weigh in on the discussion here and connect within the military community.

Image Copyright: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

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