Why do local police need 12,000 bayonets?
Why does a sheriff's department with one officer need 13 military assault rifles?
Those were just some of the questions government officials faced this week before a grueling Senate panel on the militarization of the police. The shocking way in which police in Ferguson, Missouri turned the town into a war zone in response to largely peaceful protests brought home for many Americans just how much sending military equipment to local police forces has changed police departments and even American culture.
Here's an example of the grilling officials took:
“How did we ever get to the point where we think states need MRAPs?” Coburn asked Estevez, who was visibly uncomfortable at being grilled so closely. “This is obviously one of the areas that we’re going to look at, Senator,” Estevez replied.
McCaskill had done her research. She named a tiny sheriff’s department in Oklahoma that has one full-time sworn officer and two MRAPs, she told Estevez. In a small town in Michigan, she said, “you gave them 13 military assault weapons since 2011. They have one full-time sworn officer. So one officer now has 13 military-grade assault weapons.
“How in the world can anyone say that this program has one lick of oversight if those two things are in existence?” McCaskill asked.