Disagreement over Militarization of Local Law Enforcement

Disagreement over Militarization of Local Law Enforcement

Some say local police departments have become over-militarized with new equipment made available through Homeland Security Grants.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  Many have compared the scene in Ferguson, Missouri to a war zone. Some say law enforcement has contributed to the problem with heavy artillery they've received through grants from the federal government.

John Dollarhite, upset over police action in Ferguson) "They (police) like the fully automatic weapons," said John Dollarhite, a Christian County resident who has been shocked by what he's seen on television. "They like to have the fast equipment. They like to have the big, bad bulletproof vests because they want to feel important."

But Buchanan County Sheriff Mike Strong says local peace officers need the heavier armor for defensive purposes. He says they are often outgunned when they go out on calls.

"We require these deputies and officers to make life and death decisions in micro- seconds," Strong said. "It's a stressful and very difficult decision especially when your life is being threatened."

That's why Strong was happy to accept this spring, free of charge, a nearly $1 million Mine Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicle.

"Anytime there's a life threatening (situation), anytime we'd have to move personnel or remove personnel that would be under the suspicion of fire, or someone who has a weapon who could fire on them, we would probably pull that out," he said.

"What they're doing is acquiring equipment they ordinarily wouldn't have the money to do so in case that capability is needed," said Christian County Sheriff Joey Kyle.

Strong says in a time of tight budgets and increased costs of needed equipment, he'll take what he can.

"They're expensive," he said. "We should try to get the best deal we can. If we can get them for free from the government, I think the taxpayers would want us to do it."

For those who say there is no need for heavier, defensive-based equipment in local municipalities, Strong disagrees.

"If we just use it one time that saves a deputy's life or an officer's life or maybe a hostage, it's worth it," he said.

Sheriff strong says his deputies put their lives on the line every time they go out on duty.

He added he wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't try to protect them as best as he could by giving them the tools they need.

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