BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ A group of Connecticut newspapers reports that nearly two dozen police departments in southwestern Connecticut have an inventory of M-16 assault rifles, utility trucks, Commando armored cars, a mine-resistant vehicle, an armored truck and a Huey helicopter.
The Hearst Connecticut Media Group reports that an open records request shows 19 police departments in southwestern Connecticut have received free surplus military equipment from the Department of Defense since 2006. That’s more than half the 35 departments in the region.
The Defense Department’s Law Enforcement Support Office has come under scrutiny after the militarized police response to violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Local police say it’s good news that there hasn’t been a need to use the $923,000 helicopter for Stratford police, $658,000 anti-mine truck for Trumbull police and other equipment.
In a rare occurrence, Stamford’s $150,000 Commando V150 armored car was deployed last Wednesday in a manhunt for a murder suspect. The tank-like vehicle is much more likely to have been seen in a town parade.
Police Chief Jon Fontneau said the city’s armored personnel carrier usually only comes out for executing high-profile search warrants.
“We take it out very rarely,” he said. “It’s broken down more than it’s working.”
If the equipment is used mainly for show, David Cohen, a Stamford lawyer and vice president of the Fairfield County chapter of the ACLU, asks why officials have the equipment “rolling down our streets?”
Police officials say the surplus equipment comes in handy in natural disasters and at crime scenes.
Training and the rules of engagement are different between the military and law enforcement “and I don’t think we are in danger of crossing the line,” said Danbury Police Chief Al Baker, whose department has received 40 M-16 rifles.
Information from: Connecticut Post, http://www.connpost.com