Amnesty International is calling for an investigation of the police tactics used by police in Ferguson, Missouri, where local law enforcement have clashed with protesters following the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
After sending a 12-person delegation to Ferguson to monitor police activity, meet with officials and work with activists, the human rights organization concluded that the city's policing standards must be scrutinized to ensure they meet key standards.
“Amnesty International has a long and tested history of monitoring and investigating police conduct, not just in foreign countries, but right here at home in the United States,” executive director Steven W. Hawkins said in a Sunday statement. “Our delegation traveled to Missouri to let the authorities in Ferguson know that the world is watching. We want a thorough investigation into Michael Brown’s death and the series of events that followed.”
In addition to a review of local police training and tactics, the group called on state and federal officials to complete a "prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation" into Brown's death. (Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.)
“This is a moment for people around the country -- and around the world -- to join the Ferguson community in raising concerns about race and policing, and about the impact of militarization on our fundamental right to peacefully assemble," Hawkins said.
The recent protests in Ferguson -- where police officers have donned riot gear and used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds -- have shined a spotlight on the increasing militarization of local police units.
In a Time op-ed last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) condemned Ferguson police's recent conduct, blaming "unprecedented expansion of government power" for the use of military-like tactics by law enforcement.
"There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response," Paul wrote.
On Thursday, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) announced his plan to introduce legislation aimed at scaling back the militarization of police.
"Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s," Johnson said in a letter to Democratic colleagues. "Our local police are quickly beginning to resemble paramilitary forces. This bill will end the free transfers of certain aggressive military equipment to local law enforcement and ensure that all equipment can be accounted for."