"Any time we have policemen pointing weapons at American citizens, they need to go through retraining," Russel Honoré, a retired Lieutenant General known for commanding the military relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina, during which he discouraged the use of weapons, told CNN Thursday. "I think we are about 24 hours too late."
Those 24 hours have stretched into 48, then 72, though Ferguson is no longer at a boiling point. (For the moment.) Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has promised a "change in tone." The Missouri State Highway Patrol has replaced the St. Louis County Police Department as the primary enforcer. Capt. Ron Johnson, a Ferguson native, has been walking among the protesters and making an effective appeal for calm.
The Fate of the 1033 Program
But while the chaos in Ferguson wanes, the 1033 Program's fate remains up in the air.
"I'm not aware of any plans to scale anything back," Department of Defense spokesperson Mark Wright wrote in an email to The Wire. "This is a Congressionally mandated program that we're administering."
The Cato Institute's Lynch, on the other hand, says Congress should simply end the program.
"I think the 1033 program should be shut down," he told The Wire. "I think that will restore some common sense to these agencies around the country because when they have to spend their own money, it changes the dynamic. They have to decide whether they need a new police car or a new officer or an armored vehicle from the Pentagon."
In addition, as Vox pointed out, the program requires that the equipment actually be used by the department within one year of receipt, which means they can't wait for true emergencies to break out, and instead deploy it on routine SWAT missions and other lower level incidents.
But as Charles "Joe" Key, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant, told us, the gear and the weaponry are in place to ensure safety. Therefore, a program like 1033 won't be easily scrapped. The real flaws that appeared in Ferguson aren't the weapons, but how the police used the weaponry, and how they communicated with the community.
"You have to plan for the worst," he told The Wire. "It looked like [the police] were wandering around with what appeared to be armored type vehicles and throwing gas. That really is not directed towards the way of breaking the protests up. What it has to be is a measured response where they actually take action and identify individuals who are in the violence, while encouraging the peaceful part of it."
That two-pronged strategy — splitting a crowd into smaller segments and having officers reach out to community leaders to promote peace — didn't happen in Ferguson, Key explained.
"The real problem here is dealing with a hotheaded initial group on both sides; the police and the others in the confrontation," Key said. "If you have an appropriate balance in your community groups, it can help limit these kinds of things."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.