Are police too militarized?

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by Craig Cheatham / News 4 and Dan Greenwald / KMOV.com

KMOV.com

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 6:07 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 14 at 6:54 PM

FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOV.com) – An increasing number of police departments have been using military type equipment in the years after 9/11.

According a report by the ACLU, 500 law enforcement agencies across the country have been using armored military vehicles and automatic rifles made available by the federal government since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Many people believe the tactics of heavily armed police officers in military style vehicles have made the situation in Ferguson worse.

The so called militarization of police began several decades ago when SWAT teams were introduced. Currently, hundreds of police departments use them routinely for drug raids, and to control large crowds like the one in Ferguson.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said law enforcement is re-evaluating its approach, and will try to be more responsive to the community. Jackson defended the use of tear gas and arrests of journalists and non-violent protestors.

“It was based on the threat of violence. If individuals are in a crowd that’s attacking police, they need to get out of that crowd,” Jackson said.

News 4 photojournalist Scott Thomas said police tactical units showed restraint Wednesday night, even though they were being taunted by protestors who threw rocks and bottles at officers.

The images of a warzone type atmosphere has prompted officials to insist that things change.

“I think the militarization of the response made the problem worse,” Sen. Claire McCaskill said.

A professor told News 4 said the militarization of police and their role in Ferguson is a dramatic ramping up of bully type policing that poor, crime plagued communities have complained about for many years.

“They’ve been acting like an occupying force for years,” Norm White said. “People are getting angry when they see the cops coming in like that, acting as an occupying force. Then they react and it becomes a game of one upmanship and I don’t know what’s going to stop that.”

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