Missouri protest sparks talks of police demilitarization - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Missouri protest sparks talks of police demilitarization

Military equipment in Ferguson, Missouri. Military equipment in Ferguson, Missouri.
The Irondale Police Department receives free military equipment from the Department of Defense. Source: WBRC video The Irondale Police Department receives free military equipment from the Department of Defense. Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

The death of Michael Brown has thousands of people rallying in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri looking for answers.

The way protestors have been treated has opened a discussion about demilitarizing local police.

Scenes in Ferguson include smoke canisters being fired into a crowd of protestors from a military vehicle, officers walking the streets in full riot gear and armored cars slowly rolling down the street in an attempt to push protestors back.

It's a scene that has some people questioning whether or not it's necessary.

Finn Steward is just one of handful people FOX6 spoke at Railroad Park in Birmingham that feels this is too much.

"It's just intimidating, it doesn't even seem like they're enforcing the law at that point," Steward said.

Chase Lewis doesn't think the military and police should be combined.

"I think the military is there to fight off the enemy and the police are there to protect the civilians," Lewis said.

Rubin Tartt doesn't trust police with this equipment.

"I think they take their authority to the extreme and right now no I don't think they need military gear," Tartt said.

Romel Williams isn't sure.

"They need that gear to protect themselves, but on the other hand as a citizen I'm not sure if you want to see that type of gear. It almost makes you feel like you're in a war zone," said Williams.

FOX6 wanted to get a police officer's perspective on the topic. The Irondale Police Department is just one of many departments in our area that receives free military equipment. It's part of a program through the Department of Defense.

"I think it's an absolute benefit for the police department," said Detective Michael Mangina.

Mangina says Irondale has received several military style vehicles, and other equipment through this program. Mangina says the equipment is put to good use.

"This year during the big snow storms we were able to patrol our city, patrol our interstates and rescue people because of these vehicles, because of these Humvees," Mangina said.

Mangina says the demilitarization of local police would only put the officers in danger.

The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for the demilitarization of police and there is a bi-partisan push in Washington to challenge the Pentagon program that gives free military gear to police.

Congress could take up this issue next month.

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