Obama Orders Review Of Police Use of Military Hardware

(Reuters) -

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the distribution of military hardware to state and local police out of concern at how such equipment has been used during racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

The president ordered the examination of federal programs and funding that enable state and local law enforcement to purchase such equipment, a senior Obama administration official said on Saturday.

Images of police wielding military-style guns and armor have shocked many Americans following clashes that were triggered by the fatal shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson two weeks ago.

Obama wants to know whether the programs, which were expanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are appropriate and whether state and local law enforcement are given proper training, the official said.

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 relevant U.S. agencies including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, and conducted in coordination with Congress.

A growing number of lawmakers have voiced concern about the militarization of U.S. police forces through programs administered by the Pentagon, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security.

Key concerns include a clause in the program that requires police to use the equipment within a year, something the American Civil Liberties Union argues may give police forces an incentive to use the equipment in inappropriate situations. The program also does not mandate training for crowd control or other uses.