President Obama today welcomed a variety of voices from disparate communities to the White House for a discussion on the lessons of Ferguson, though as Trymaine Lee, Zachary Roth, and Jane C. Timm reported
, the administration isn't just talking; it's acting.
The federal government will spend $75 million on body cameras for law enforcement nationwide, in the wake of the deadly shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri. The money could buy as many as 50,000 police cameras. The funds -- part of a three-year installment of $263 million expected to be announced soon by President Barack Obama -- will match local police force purchases of cameras at 50%.... The White House announced that the president would sign an executive order that aims to streamline federal and local law enforcement communication and create a "Task Force on 21st Century Policing," which will report on best practices in three months.
And while those sound like constructive measures, the one policy issue that's arguably received the most attention is the Pentagon's "1033 program," which makes military equipment available to state and local law enforcement -- a program that's drawn criticism from lawmakers in both parties in recent months.
As we discussed
last week, Congress' interest in reforms quickly faded and the issue is unlikely to receive any attention in the Republican-led House and Senate over the next couple of years. But as long as the White House is tackling post-Ferguson policy shifts, perhaps the administration can be proactive on the 1033 controversy?
Obama's package of measures announced today doesn't go as far as the legislative initiative that stalled on Capitol Hill, but it does address the issue, as the New York Times reported
President Obama on Monday announced that he would tighten standards on the provision and use of military-style equipment by local police departments, but he stopped short of curtailing the transfer of such hardware or weapons to the local authorities. After a review of the government's decade-old strategy of outfitting local police forces with military equipment, the White House concluded that the vast majority of these transfers strengthen local policing, but that the government should impose consistent standards in the types of hardware it offers, better training in how to use it and more thorough oversight.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), arguably the top House lawmaker on reforming the 1033 policy, celebrated
the White House's announcement, noting the ways in which it overlaps with his own proposal.
That said, it's worth noting that for those who see police militarization as a problem, that problem hasn't gone away. What the White House said today is that local law enforcement will still be able to receive military equipment, but it's time for limits on the way in which officers use and access that equipment.
To that end, Obama's executive order mandates
, among other things, training on the "appropriate use and employment of controlled equipment, as well as protection of civil rights and civil liberties."
It goes further than just symbolic gestures, but not quite as far as proposed legislation. If Congress wants more safeguards, lawmakers will have to do more on their own.