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Recent police shootings re-spark discussion on 'police militarization'

Posted at 7:11 PM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-19 19:12:24-04

Sheriff William Snyder says as far as he's concerned, the term 'police militarization' is overblown.

"What you're hearing is a political correctness you're hearing from a group of people that have never had to respond to a shots fired call," he says.

Snyder says in fact the 1033 program, which provides military surplus to police, has been a boost to his department.

It has provided him everything from helicopters, to a mine resistant vehicle that he uses in high water emergencies.

Just last year, in response to the unrest during the Ferguson protests, the president scaled back the program, limiting the distribution of high powered weapons and armored cars.

Snyder and other law enforcement leaders around the country now say it's time to reconsider that move.

"We had two mass killings now of law-enforcement," Snyder says. "In both cases someone with a long rifle, high-powered ammunition was able to get the tactical advantage on law-enforcement."

He says that gear could benefit smaller departments with smaller budgets.

As for recent shootings, he says that equipment can make a difference.

"In the Dallas mass killing of law-enforcement, an armored personnel carrier somewhere close by and staged could've been extremely beneficial," Snyder says. 

Mark Schneider from the American Civil Liberties Union agrees - to a point.

"Certainly hostage situations, active shooters certainly and barricaded individuals are legitimate uses of militarized equipment," he says.

But he says more often than not, military gear is misused.

"They use them for appropriate uses we think in only about 7% of the cases where they're used," Schneider says. 

In addition, he says, the backlash from the public can be strong.

"They've come to see the police unfortunately as more of an enemy occupying force," he says.

Snyder says that's not the intention.

"We don't want to appear like an occupying army," he says. "What we want to appear as is what we are - and that's guardians of public safety"

Since the 1033 program started in 1990, nearly $300 million dollars worth of surplus equipment has come to law enforcement agencies in the state of Florida.

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