U.S. President Barack Obama has orders the examination of federal programs and funding allowing state and local enforcement to purchase military hardware out of concern at how much equipment was used during the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a senior Obama administration official on Saturday, Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal report, Obama orders review of U.S. police use of military hardware. 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. At the White House news conference Monday, Obama said he wanted to make sure police purchase equipment needed because there is “a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred.” A growing number of lawmakers have voiced concerned over the militarization of U.S. police forces through programs facilitated by the Pentagon, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. House of Representative lawmakers defeated a bill to halt the 1033 program, which allows the purchase of this equipment, 355-62 vote in June, however concerns about the handling of the crisis in Ferguson have revived the reform effort. The article reports: “The Pentagon has transferred more than $4 billion of equipment including armored vehicles, tents, rifles and night-vision goggles to local and state agencies since 2006, of which about 36 percent involved new equipment. Over the past year alone, the Pentagon said, it has transferred some 600 armored military trucks known as MRAPS that were built for the war in Iraq. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has awarded more than $35 billion in grants over the past decade.” U.S. weapons makers have been eying other markets for years to drum up business for their products developed for the military to offset declines in U.S. and European military spending.
Back in Ferguson, Michael Brown Sr., the fathers of the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a police officer, asked Sunday for protests to pause on the day of his son’s funeral, Mollie Reilly reports, Michael Brown’s Father Asks For Pause In Protests On Day Of Son’s Funeral. He told BuzzFeed, “I would like for no protesting going on. We just want a moment of silence that whole day. Just out of respect for our son.” Saturday marked the two week anniversary of the shooting with Brown’s father telling KSHB regarding officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Michael Brown: “We’re hurt. There’s no telling what he’s doing. He has his life, but our son is gone.” Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree told NBC, “I think the first thing that needs to happen, you need to arrest Officer Wilson. He shot and killed a man, shot him multiple times. No one knows anything about him, no one knows why he did it.” The Christian Science Monitor points out not all agree that Wilson should be taken into custody as one law professor at Harvard was quoted as saying, “We should not arrest [Officer Darren Wilson] until there’s a substantial level of proof of criminality, even if it appeared that the police acted improperly.” Unfortunately, Missouri’s Defense of Jurisdiction statute fives police officers broad authority to use deadly force in cases when, “He or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, when he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest” and when the subject “May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.” The Business Insider points out that if Wilson is charged for Brown’s death, his attorney can invoke the law by arguing that he believed Brown posed a serious threat to his life. Wilson’s supporters have started fundraising campaigns for the officer including a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $230,000 and two Facebook pages in support of Wilson have almost 100,000 likes. CNN reports, “It may be until mid-October before the panel gets through all of the evidence. That’s so important to see as much evidence as they can. So if this officer … is charged, it may not happen until then.” Until then, Salon notes that the prosecution has two choices: first, “immediately press charges, issue a warrant for the officer’s arrest and arrest Officer Wilson.” Or it could hold back, then “present the case to a grand jury and see if the grand jury will find probable cause to indict the officer.” Regardless of whether Wilson is soon arrested, the grand jury would still have to find probable cause before he would be indicted. Michael Brown’s funeral is scheduled for Monday.
As for the man of the hour, Darren Wilson remains a bit of mystery yet many have rallied around the somewhat disgraced officer thanks to the less than fair media coverage of the officer. Wilson supporters agree the media is a perpetrator believing he has been misrepresented and maligned since the shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, according to Matt Sledge, Darren Wilson Supporters Rally To Bash Media, Ferguson Protesters. Sharon, one of many people who only offered a first name or no name at all said, “It takes two sides to every story, and I think he has gotten such a bad rap.” A 12 person grand jury began considering whether to indict Wilson for his role in Brown’s death on Wednesday with some supporters expressing sympathy for Brown’s family, while few others, seemed to think the 18 year old should be spared the rush to judgement that Officer Wilson received. There has been three nights of peace in Ferguson following days of violent clashes with police and protestors directly following the shooting. While both black and white protestors have come out every night in Ferguson, no African Americans appeared to attend the pro-Wilson gathering. The Washington Post reported Wilson worked previously at a department that was disbanded by authorities over racial tension in Jennings, Missouri, three years ago when Wilson was a rookie cop. The newspaper described the department as “a mainly white department mired in controversy and notorious for its fraught relationship with residents, especially the African American majority… not an ideal place to learn how to police.” The city council decided that tensions between officers and black residents were so bad that everyone had to be fired to build a new, more credible department. Just days after Brown was killed, Kajieme Powell, another black man was fatally shot by police after allegedly stealing energy drinks and donuts from a convenience store. St. Louis Police said the man was armed with a knife, but raw video of the incident appears contradictory. Later last week, Lieutenant Ray Albers of the St. Ann Police was suspended after being filmed pointing a semi-automatic rifle at a protestor and threatening to kill him. On Aug. 22, St. Louis County officer Dan Page was removed from duty after a video of him making bigoted comments was released.
As Natasha Bach points out, Police Violence Has Been Going On Forever. No Wonder People Are Fed Up With It, the fact remains that the number of people killed by police annually is unknown, but we do know that five unarmed black men have been killed by police in the last month alone. Besides protestors protesting the Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, they are voicing their anger at an old police problem namely the violence directed at black and brown people. Besides the Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell shooting, here are a few other instances of excessive force used by police nationwide from Bach’s report:
“The horrific beating of Rodney King by five police officers in Los Angeles in 1991 — and the subsequent acquittal of his assailants — sparked the L.A. riots of 1992, leading to 53 deaths, some at the hands of police. It was also a video introduction to police brutality for those in America who may have doubted its severity.
Twenty years later, a police beating or shooting has a decent chance of getting caught on camera — either the one on the phone in everybody’s hand or the surveillance camera pointing down at the street. The latter captured Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man, being beaten to death by authorities in Fullerton, California, after being mistaken for a suspect in a series of car break-ins in the area. They, too, were acquitted.
Footage shows Oscar Grant being restrained by BART transit officers on the train platform in Oakland, California, following an altercation. Unarmed and lying on the platform, Grant was shot to death by James Mehserle, who claimed to have mistaken his gun for his taser. The alleged accidental death of Grant at the Fruitvale BART station was memorialized in last year’s film Fruitvale Station.
In June, Edgar Vargas Arzate was running from police in Santa Ana, California, near where Thomas was beaten, before surrendering in the front yard of a neighbor’s home. He was lying unarmed and face-down in the grass, but officers still savagely beat Arzate. When he was taken into custody, he was charged with assaulting an officer.
In July, Staten Island resident Eric Garner was suspected by the NYPD of selling untaxed cigarettes. When he refused arrest, an officer put the asthmatic man in a chokehold. Garner repeatedly screamed ‘I can’t breathe!’ and died soon after.”