Local police and military gear debate

By Mike LaCrosse 


mlacrosse@abc6.com


The debate over the militarization of local police departments is picking up.

The White House is conducting a review of programs that have equipped local police departments with military gear from the Pentagon, urged by President Barack Obama’s call for more separation between the nation’s armed forces and civilian law enforcement.

“It ultimately can really breed mistrust in the community, which is not what police departments should do,” said Stephen Brown, Rhode Island ACLU.

Stephen Brown of the Rhode Island ACLU said the optics of the military equipment will erode the public’s trust in its public servants.

“Police departments have a different mission than the military and when they start flaunting the equipment they’ve gotten and appear like they’re an invading force,” said Brown.

The examination comes in the aftermath of the police response to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of an unarmed black man.

The review will examine whether the programs are appropriate; the amount of training provided for using military equipment, and how well the government audits the use of the money and equipment by local police departments.

The Rehoboth Police Department has ten pieces of surplus equipment.  They’ve got humvees, a generator, a plow, tractor trailer and an armored truck called an MRAP.

“The reason we accepted that vehicle was because we have several members of our department who are members of the regional swat team.  They were using a bread truck as a response unit,” said Rehoboth Police Sgt. Mark Rossi.

He says they use the humvees in the snow and take all the equipment seriously

“Everything we have acquired is ya know with a purpose not just to have you know toys,” said Sgt. Rossi.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 – Associated Press