Pentagon says little of the equipment seen in Ferguson is military surplus

St. Louis County Police tactical officers fire tear gas on West Florissant Road on Monday, August 11, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.


By CHUCK RAASCH | St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Published: August 22, 2014

WASHINGTON (MCT) — A Pentagon spokesman said Friday that almost all of the military-style equipment used by local law enforcement in Ferguson over the last 13 days did not come from the Department of Defense.

Most of the $4.3 billion worth of surplus equipment transferred to local law enforcement has not been tactical, but more mundane items such as furniture and communications equipment, Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a press briefing. 

"Most of the stuff you are seeing in video coming out of Ferguson is not military," he said, adding: "The military is not the only source of tactical gear in this country."

Kirby said that two Humvees the Pentagon sent to Ferguson "were soft-skinned, not armored." They were on the list of equipment sent to St. Louis County law enforcement agencies reported last week by the Post-Dispatch. 

Some public officials and activists have criticized the "militarization" of the police response to peaceful demonstrations, looting and violence after the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

On Thursday, Reps. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis and Emanuel Cleaver, D-Kansas City, met with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to express their concerns about the the program to transfer of military equipment to local police departments. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said she would hold a hearing on the program in September.

Kirby said Hagel met earlier in the week with Pentagon officials about the program, but that the secretary had not made a decision about an official review.

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