Military equipment in local policing

By Julianne Peixoto

August 25, 2014 Updated Aug 25, 2014 at 10:28 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) In the wake of this month's unrest in Ferguson, Mo., that came after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager, law enforcement at the local level have come under scrutiny for the use of military-style tactics and equipment.

The Broome County Sheriff's Office is among local agencies that have acquired such equipment from a federal military surplus program.

"There's been some abuse," said Broome County Sheriff David Harder. "I don’t need rocket launchers, things like that, no, you know the general equipment."

Through the Department of Defense's 1033 program, surplus military equipment has been given to local police organizations across the nation for years.

The Broome County Sheriff's Department began receiving equipment two years ago.

"Two Humvees that are not armored proof, two 'deuce and a half' five-ton trucks, and one armored personnel carrier," said Harder. "I’d have to say it’d be at least a half a million to $1 million dollars we received."

Harder said the equipment will be extremely beneficial during natural disasters, like the floods of 2006 and 2011, because some of the vehicles can navigate through up to 6 feet of water.

"It can take people out of a flooded area, it can bring supplies in, you can haul things, tow things with it," said Harder. "That’s why we got all that equipment. It’s not for, the riots that are going on in Ferguson and so forth. We got it for emergency backup equipment in case a disaster hits here."

On Saturday, President Barack Obama ordered a review of the equipment surplus program to ensure the gear is being acquired for the right purposes, and to ensure officers are being trained on when and how to use it.

But Harder thinks it is a program that should not be abolished.

"It's a savings for the taxpayers," said Harder. "You know, if I have to go out and buy equipment similar to that, it's costing the taxpayers and the county of Broome a lot of money, and they've already paid for this through their taxes."

Chris Bracco who will be running against Harder in the upcoming sheriff election this November, said he agrees with Harder on how and when the equipment should be used.

"Military equipment has a diverse use in Broome County, such as during natural disasters, and dangerous barricade situations," said Bracco. "The aftermath in Ferguson was the result of a very poor relationship between law enforcement and the community. I have and will continue to strive to be in touch and engaged with our community on an ongoing basis so that when there is a crisis, the groundwork has been laid to address the issue together."

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