I've found it unsettling in recent years to be walking down the streets of the nation's capital and encounter giant military vehicles parked at the curb.
Now I'm wondering if they're part of the militarization of the police that is getting so much attention in Ferguson, Mo.
As the standoff between St. Louis County police forces and protesters escalated in the wake of the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, the scene sometimes resembled a war zone.
One military combat veteran said a police officer in Ferguson had "more personal body armor and weaponry than I did while invading Iraq.”
Every night, I do a pretty thorough review of the news across a wide variety of websites. Yet I don't recall seeing anything about the federal government's payment for body armor, mine-resistant trucks and other military gear for local police.
Grant programs that, in the name of fighting terrorism, paid for some of the equipment being used in Ferguson have been consistently popular since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, says The New York Times.
If there's been any debate at all, it was over which departments deserved the most money, and there have been few restrictions on the use of the equipment, the Times says.
But now Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. says he's “deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message.”
And Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, D, says “this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in a Time magazine essay that “Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies.”
Missouri Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon pledged on Thursday to change the tone of the response in Ferguson, announcing that the Missouri Highway Patrol would take over security there.