Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 1, 2015

Senate Will Review Militarization of Police in Defense Bill, Levin Says

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee will look into the program that provides Pentagon surplus to local police before the full Senate considers the next defense authorization.

The Armed Services panel has already approved the fiscal 2015 defense programs bill for Senate floor consideration, and staff for Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and ranking member James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., are working over the August recess to try and develop a defined universal set of amendments to set up for floor consideration.

“Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals. We intended this equipment to keep police officers and their communities safe from heavily armed drug gangs and terrorist incidents,” Levin said in a statement Friday. “Before the defense authorization bill comes to the Senate floor, we will review this program to determine if equipment provided by the Defense Department is being used as intended.”

The program is facing new scrutiny in the aftermath of local police response to protests over the police shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. On Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Mo., handed command over to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

When asked Thursday if Sen. Rand Paul might follow up his opinion piece for that criticized federal action contributing to overly militarized police activities with an amendment to the defense programs bill designed to restrict the Pentagon transfers, an aide to the Kentucky Republican pointed to the trouble that Republican senators have had getting amendments considered on the floor to begin with. However, the defense bill usually reaches the floor with a managers’ package of amendments that are bundled together with the backing of Levin and Inhofe.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., included the defense bill on a long to-do list for the brief September work period that could include weekend sessions.


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