Bills that would regulate how New Jersey police acquire military gear head to Christie's desk

Associated Press

Police departments in New Jersey might have new rules to follow before acquiring military surplus equipment from the federal government.

The state Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed two bills that stem from the violence following the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in Ferguson, Missouri, in August.

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One requires the state attorney general to review municipal police department requests for the gear. The other requires local governments to authorize such acquisitions.

The state Senate last month also passed the bills unanimously, and they now head to Gov. Chris Christie. He hasn't indicated how he might vote.

Lawmakers said the bills were necessary to make sure the use of certain equipment was "appropriate" by local law enforcement agencies. They raised questions about why local police departments needed armored vehicles, M16s and riot shotguns.

Police use of military equipment, acquired through a program within the Pentagon, drew criticism after police in Missouri used it to quell protests.

Police departments in New Jersey have received more than $50 million worth of military equipment through the Pentagon's "1033 program," with $30 million coming between October 2013 and September 2014, lawmakers said.

The program is also under scrutiny at the federal level. President Barack Obama issued an executive order this month calling for the attorney general and defense and homeland security secretaries to review the program and offer recommendations by May.