One week after the grand jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown, President Obama has proposed a new federal spending package that could have prevented the shooting in the first place. As part of the $263 million, three-year package, Obama proposed body cameras for police officers and better equipment training. $75 million of the package will be allocated toward the purchase of 50,000 body cameras for law enforcement, a tactic that has been in high demand after Ferguson, which brought transparency in police activity to the forefront.
Obama made the announcement at the White House on Monday. His proposal, which still requires approval from Congress, pledges $75 million over the course of three years to match state funding by 50 percent for body cameras for officers. The cameras would be used to record police activities, like arrests and altercations, and would provide more definitive evidence of wrongdoing. Such a move would undoubtedly help prevent future incidents like the Michael Brown shooting and help mend the damaged trust between law enforcement and the public.
Other portions of the package will go toward law enforcement training in using paramilitary equipment accessed through the Department of Defense and other federal agencies' surplus programs. Equipment such as assault rifles and armored vehicles were seen on the streets of Ferguson during the initial protests after the August 9 shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, which only exacerbated the tension between civilians and law enforcement. As a result, Obama called for a White House review of the rules pertaining to usage of surplus military equipment.
After the review revealed a lack of official protocol in how officers use this military-grade equipment — it was unclear whether some officers even knew how to operate the gear — Obama is calling for expanded training programs and is also reassessing the types of gear permitted for civilian law enforcement use. These new equipment rules will be enforced in the next four months through an executive order on the Pentagon, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and all other federal agencies that run surplus programs.
In conjunction with his new federal spending proposal, Obama will continue to meet with civil rights and community leaders to discuss how to rebuild trust between communities and their law enforcement. As part of this initiative, Obama is also establishing a Task Force on 21st Century Policing led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and former Office of Justice Programs Attorney General Laurie Robinson to prepare guidelines for combating crime without compromising trust with the community.
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