LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The leader of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska said the state needs a moratorium on acquisition of military equipment by law enforcement agencies.
The ACLU’s executive director, Amy Miller, spoke at a forum on police equipment attended by more than 40 officers, civil libertarians and community leaders.
In the past five years, law enforcement agencies across Nebraska have received more than 118 military-grade weapons and two armored vehicles though a federal program, the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1vlsXZO ) reported.
Miller said law enforcement officials have been responsible in their use of military equipment, but the potential exists for the equipment to escalate peaceful situations into violence, such as the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson officer.
“The news is pretty good from where we’re sitting, but it’s a slippery slope,” Miller said. Public and elected officials should at least have more oversight over the acquisition of the military weapons, she said.
Some audience members asked about the need for armored vehicles and the policies behind their use. Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner, also a panelist, defended the military weapons. He said law enforcement agencies have a duty to protect themselves and the public against worst-case scenarios.
The department has only twice used its newly acquired Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP. Deputies used the vehicle in situations where suspects had barricaded themselves in a home and hotel room, Wagner said.
He said the armored vehicles are a safer alternative for deputies. Before, they would put bullet-proof vests over their patrol cars in an attempt to get closer to the situation.
Lincoln retiree Dewayne Mays, 67, said he’s concerned a “show of force” of the military equipment may escalate a situation.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com
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