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Authorities' Response In Ferguson Prompts Calls For Congressional, State Hearings

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Ray Jones | UPI

Law-enforcement response to the unrest in Ferguson is generating a congressional hearing into “militarized’’ police, and a call for a bipartisan state committee to review the state response.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she’s planning a September hearing of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight, which she chairs, “to examine federal programs that enable local police departments to acquire military equipment.”

McCaskill had complained a week ago that police seeking to quell Ferguson’s unrest were overreacting and needed to “de-militarize” their actions – citing in particular the armored vehicles and tear gas.

At the hearing, she said in a statement that she plans “to discuss the Defense Department’s 1033 program for surplus property and grants made through the Department of Homeland Security.”

The hearing will feature “stakeholders from all sides in order to hear several perspectives, including those of local law enforcement,” her statement added.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican, is proposing that Republican leaders in the General Assembly assemble “a bipartisan legislative committee to review and assess the state’s response…”

Kinder suggested that the panel have an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, and be co-chaired with representatives ;from both parties.

“The events in Ferguson supersede politics and warrant a genuinely bipartisan response from both chambers of the Legislature,” said Kinder in the letter that he said was sent to state Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey and House Speaker Tim Jones.

Kinder suggested that the panel “address four main issues related to the crisis in Ferguson: communication failures by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies; a review of the state’s policy toward law enforcement’s use of deadly force; possible changes to Missouri’s Open Records Law to ensure transparency; and economic and educational reforms in Ferguson. “

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.