Obama plan will regulate, not stop police militarization

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The White House today announced it is implementing stricter regulations for the supply and use of military equipment given to state and local law enforcement agencies in the wake of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

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But President Obama's plan stops short of curtailing controversial federal programs that equip local police with military surplus weapons, vehicles, and armor.

The White House published a review of multiple programs that provide military equipment to police that found a "lack of consistency in how federal programs are structured, implemented, and audited." Obama's plan aims to fix these problems by establishing a new set of rules, according to a document provided by the White House:

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  • Tighten regulations. Develop a uniform list of equipment local police are allowed to obtain, ensure weaponry has a "legitimate civilian law enforcement purpose."
  • Increase and improve training for agencies that receive military equipment.
  • Require "after-action" reports for "significant incidents" involving federally funded materiel.
  • Ask Congress to provide $263 million over three years to purchase 50,000 body cameras for police and improve training for local law enforcement. The federal government would use $75 million to provide a 50 percent match to police departments that purchase cameras.

Form a task force to recommend local police reforms. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and George Mason University professor Laurie Robinson will chair the task force of law-enforcement experts and community leaders.

Obama's announcement came as part of greater effort to gather his cabinet, and leaders of civil rights, law enforcement, and faith groups to address the White House's response to Ferguson.

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White House press secretary Josh Earnest would not say whether Obama himself would visit the city.

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Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.

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