The images that assaulted our senses, night after night, recently from Ferguson, Missouri, created waves of concern in Americans from coast to coast, regardless of race, religion, or political party.
So many questions, emotions, and deep-seated resentments have erupted since the shooting death of Michael Brown.
At the request of several ministers and community leaders in Ferguson, I traveled there to offer any assistance I could, to lessen tensions before another tragedy occurred. I also joined several Missouri lawmakers in sitting down with Attorney General Eric Holder. I was pleased by his visit, his promise of a fair and thorough investigation, and his commitment to those victimized during the protests.
I, along with my colleague Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), also urgently requested a meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. We sat down in The Pentagon with him the next evening, to discuss our grave concerns about the militarization of local law enforcement agencies.
Under what is known as the 1033 Program, surplus Department of Defense equipment is distributed to various police departments throughout the country. I voiced my strong objections, and those of many constituents from both parties in Missouri’s Fifth District, to parts of 1033. I am not advocating for the termination of the 1033 Program altogether, but believe a vigorous review is necessary. I am encouraged by the President's promise to do just that.
If there is any good to come of this tragedy, perhaps it is that we will act forcefully and quickly to ensure public safety, and preserve our constitutional rights, including the right to assemble and peacefully protest, without the unacceptable threat of an overbearing police response that targets law-abiding citizens with military weapons and technology.