Civil Liberties

Media Notes Congressional Failure to Demilitarize Police, and Reason is Proud to Lead the Way


Militarized police

Members of Congress had a recent chance to demilitarize policing—and Ferguson, Missouri's own member of Congress, Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), is among the majority of both Democrats and Republicans who turned up their noses at the opportunity. That point was made by Reason's own Ed Krayewski, last week, who noted that "House leadership on both sides also voted against it, including Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)"

Media outfits including the Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have now picked up on the irony of Rep. Clay's justifiable opposition to "police repression" just two months after he joined 354 of his colleagues in opposing a measure sponsored by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) intended to "prohibit the Department of Defense from gifting excess equipment, such as aircraft—including drones—armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, and bombs to local police departments," in the words of its author.

The Post-Dispatch's Chuch Raasch notes that "Five of six members of the House from the St. Louis area voted against the amendment." Raasch quotes Clay defending his vote, while still condemning police militarization.

Cognitive dissonance, thy name is…well, pretty much anybody holding government office.

To put Clay's vote in context, the Washington Post's Philip Bump points out, "In short, the amendment would have prevented the military from distributing to local police forces some of heavy weapons and vehicles that the country has seen deployed in response to unrest in Ferguson, Mo."

Special props to columnist Clarence Page for openly tweeting Krayewski's original piece.

As Krayewski made painfully clear, Clay was not along in his vote against severing the flow of military equipment to police departments. Grayson's amendment gained only 62 votes, with 355 opposed.

Supporters of the amendment include the usual civil libertarian suspects, such as Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who called attention to this vote on Twitter earlier today, John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Walter Jones (R-NC), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), John Lewis (D-Ga.), who nevertheless called for martial law in Ferguson, Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Mark Sanford (R-SC). Fourteen other Republicans and 43 other Democrats voted for the amendment.

There were a handful of members of Congress who didn't vote, including Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)

See how your representative voted here.

Realizing there's a problem is a first step. Now that horror is growing over military equipment and tactics deployed in the streets of American cities with the encouragement of the country's political class, maybe a solution will be next.