TYLER, TX (KLTV) - President Barack Obama said Monday there may need to be a review of the Department of Defense's program that sends unused military items to local police departments and agencies.
The President made the remarks at a press conference Monday after meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder, who will be traveling to Ferguson, Mo. That city has seen night after night of unrest between protestors and police following the officer-involved shooting of a teenager.
Police can be seen almost nightly armed to the teeth and wearing near-full body armor, clashing with protestors in the streets. Some of that gear they are using could be straight from the military. It is a program from the Defense Logistics Agency known as the 1033 Program and it allows unused military surplus to be requested and sent to local law enforcement agencies.
After analysis of the data from the DLA, KLTV 7 Investigates found Texas agencies received $181,000,000 worth of items since the program's creation. Most of the departments have been using the program to get items because they operate on a tight budget.
Other departments said they used the program to get vital equipment to protect their officers against criminals who seem to be just as armed as law enforcement.
Longview police received one of the most expensive items, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, commonly referred to as an MRAP. Agencies in four other East Texas counties also received MRAPs from the military.
"There was no expense to the citizens to actually acquire the vehicle," Longview Officer Kristie Brian said.
But some say the DLA's program comes with little oversight, and that has lawmakers and leaders in Washington wanting a review of the program.
"I think it's probably useful for us to review how the funding's gone," President Barack Obama said.
The Pentagon spoke about the program Thursday and said they still see the program has a purpose to help local law enforcement.
"This is a useful program that allows for the reuse of military equipment that otherwise would be disposed of that can be used again by law enforcement," said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.
However, the president wants to make sure the program is being watched to make sure the lines between local law enforcement and military forces are not blurred. He said the program should "make sure what they're purchasing is stuff they actually need."
President Obama said he thinks there will be bipartisan support to review the DLA programs.