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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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September 3rd, 2014
01:37 PM ET

Sen. McCaskill wants to withhold federal funding for local police unless they use body cams

(CNN) – Since those violent protests in the city of Ferguson, where demonstrators were pitted against heavily armed police, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, has been working on the issue of police militarization.

The various programs providing arms to police forces "haven't had enough oversight," says McCaskill, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. She will be holding a hearing on police militarization next week.

But some officers argue that heavy arms and equipment are necessary to do their jobs. "These are the tools that law enforcement unfortunately needs" to meet the threats in this day and age, Lt. Mitchell O'Brien with the Huntington Beach, California, police told ABC News Friday.

In Ferguson, McCaskill said she saw "both an over militarized response to protesters, (and) also saw the used of a wrapped vehicle to bring law enforcement officers to safety when they were being challenged in a very dangerous situation."

But after the nation bore witness to protesters facing military tanks and officers armed as though they were ready for battle, the militarization of local police departments is under scrutiny.

Next week's hearing will be a chance to address "a laundry list of questions that all of us should have about this equipment, who's paying for it, and how it's being utilized," said McCaskill.

The Missouri Democrat wants to withhold federal funding for local police officers unless they use body cams. But even low-end cameras cost about $300 each. There are more than 460,000 local police officers in the nation.

"Having a complete video of what actually occurred, in many times is going to protect the officers, and certainly protect the public, because we would have video – sometimes of a crime being committed – which is pretty powerful evidence in a courtroom," said McCaskill.

"Cautiously optimistic" on Senate races

On the topic of politics, the fate of the Senate is hanging in the balance, with several vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in November's midterm elections. McCaskill is a Democrat who has won in a red state.

Her advice to fellow red state Dems? Don't be afraid to separate yourself from the Democratic party, and boost your bona fides as a moderate who was willing to work across the aisle.

"All of them have shown independence from their party when it was important to represent their states, and I think that is what voters want to know," said McCaskill. "They want to know their senator is willing to put all that aside and do what's right for their state."

"I'm cautiously optimistic about all of my colleagues that are Democrats that are running in red states this year," she said.

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