WASHINGTON -- Police militarization — the issue that briefly united conservatives and liberals over Ferguson — has turned out to be a dud.
A White House review suggests largely leaving intact federal programs that provide surplus military equipment to local police departments. President Barack Obama ordered the review after widely criticized heavy-handed police response to August protests following the shooting of Michael Brown. A report released by the White House on Monday suggested making improvements to the programs, to standardize training and better track equipment.
But the White House response falls short of wholesale changes that some suggested should be made after police deployed military-style vehicles on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, after the Brown shooting.
Efforts in Congress to rein in the programs have also fizzled.
The White House report concluded: "These programs, in the main, have been valuable and have provided state and local law enforcement with needed assistance as they carry out their critical missions in helping to keep the American people safe."
Between 2009 and 2014, the federal government has provided nearly $18 billion in funds and resources to support programs that provide equipment and tactical resources to state and local law enforcement. The vast majority of that money goes to back office equipment, with only 4 percent of property going to heavier, more controlled equipment.
Police tactical units in recent years have taken to wearing camouflage and some agencies have received heavy-duty battlefield vehicles known as MRAPs, an acronym for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.
What many saw as militarization, some law enforcement officials say, was what has come to be standard gear used by SWAT teams, which aren't routinely deployed on civilian streets.
Some law enforcement officials say that instead of focusing on equipment, more attention should be paid to police training.
Justice Department officials have pushed for improved training for St. Louis-area police agencies, moving away from "warrior" tendencies and toward being "guardians" for communities that police serve.
The White House report released Monday suggested standardizing training for police to respect civil rights and liberties.
The president plans to issue an executive order to tighten some of the controls over the programs to better track equipment provided to law enforcement agencies. The White House also plans to boost funding to pay for 50,000 body cameras for police officers.