Police departments adding military weapons, equipment - CBS46 News

Police departments adding military weapons, equipment to arsenals

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A U.S. Congressman from Georgia says Main Street is no place for military weapons and armored vehicles.

Representative Hank Johnson wants to limit what type of military surplus is handed over to local law enforcers.

Through military surplus distributions, local law enforcement have picked up everything from small tool kits, to armored vehicles, to helicopters.

"Most chiefs of police in the metro Atlanta area are very sensitive to the issue of militarization and we've got to be very careful," said Doraville Police Chief John F. King.
Doraville police say they're careful how they use this mine resistant vehicle, turned personnel carrier.

"It's resulted in the safe arrest of suspects without injury to our officers and the person involved," said King.

But Congressman Hank Johnson (D)-Georgia District-4 points to recent events in Ferguson, MO. He calls the violence an example of how military surplus distributions have gone wrong.

"Police officers clad in riot gear, gas masks. They're ready to go into a battle when in fact, the only thing they were facing was a group of citizens exercising their first amendment right," said Johnson.

We found 36 metro law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment including school police.

Chamblee received 78 firearm magazine cartridges, Cobb County police received two different type of armored vehicles and College Park police obtained 45 military rifles and pistols.

Clayton County police received 4 helicopters, while Atlanta police received just one medevac helicopter.

The Sandy Springs Police Department received 117 military rifles.

Chamblee Police alone has received 577 different items from the Department of Defense everything from sleeping bags to 48 assault packs.

"Automatic weapons, silencers, I can't envision many occasions where law enforcement officers would need to use a silencer to take out someone," said Johnson.

Proposed changes would stop the transfer of automatic weapons .50 caliber or greater along with the transfer of tactical vehicles. It would also keep flash bangs and silencers and other similar military items out of local law enforcement's hands.

Johnson says that's important considering several items of military surplus handed over to local law enforcers are missing.

"You don't want military grade equipment to fall into the wrong hands and be misused against Americans," said Johnson.

The new law would also require states to do a better job tracking surplus military items that are purchased by local law enforcers.

The public may also get a chance to weigh-in on this issue.

An anticipated change being considered by lawmakers would require law enforcement to notify the community about military items they're considering before they get those items from the Department of Defense.

Click here for a list of items local law departments have acquired from the Department of Defense.

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