By Lucy McCalmont
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill announced Thursday that she will lead a hearing in September looking into the militarization of local police departments, after recent tensions between law enforcement and protesters have rocked her state.
The hearing, which will be held by the McCaskill-chaired Financial & Contracting Oversight Subcommittee, follows the Democrat's calls for demilitarization in Ferguson, Missouri. The St. Louis suburb has witnessed unrest, at times becoming violent, since the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
"We need to demilitarize this situation -- this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution," McCaskill said, while in Ferguson last week.
According to a release, the hearing will look into programs that have provided local police with military equipment.
The use of war-zone equipment by police in response to Ferguson protesters has come under criticism from an array of politicians, including Attorney General Eric Holder, who visited Ferguson on Wednesday and met with McCaskill and other members of the Missouri congressional delegation.
President Barack Obama also addressed the issue at a news conference Monday, during which he spoke about the clashes in Ferguson.
"I think one of the great things about the United States has been our ability to maintain a distinction between our military and domestic law enforcement," Obama said, adding that some post-9/11 moves to further equip local police have been helpful.
"Having said that, I think it's probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars, to make sure that what they're purchasing is stuff that they actually need, because there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don't want those lines blurred," the president said.