Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday said that the aggressive use of force by police in Ferguson, Missouri in response to rioting there shows that America needs to demilitarize its police forces.
“There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response,” Paul wrote in an op-ed for Time.
“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action,” he said.
Paul said police forces around the country have been allowed to obtain and use military-style gear because of easy money from Washington DC.
“Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement,” he wrote.
He noted work done by the Heritage Foundation, which found that the Department of Homeland Security has given out federal funds for local forces to fight terrorism, which has let them buy more advanced weapons. Paul said that weaponry becomes even more of a threat given the erosion of civil liberties in recent years.
“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands,” he wrote.
“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them,” Paul added. “Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”
Earlier in the day, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for an end to the violence in Ferguson, and justice for the family of Michael Brown, the teenager who was shot by a yet-to-be identified police officer.