WKU Public Radio News Staff
Tue August 26, 2014
Kentucky Law Enforcement Agencies Bolster Weaponry Via Federal Program
Kentucky law enforcement agencies have received armored cars, aircraft, thousands of automatic weapons and more from a controversial U.S. military equipment transfer program that has been under fire in the wake of civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo.
The data, obtained by The New York Times, identifies transfers of surplus military equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense's "1033" program, which funnels extra gear to state and local police departments. The records span from 2006 to May 2014, and indicate 90 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have participated.
Kentucky State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Webb says that the equipment is necessary, and that lethal force is used only in circumstances that require it.
“The deployment of that particular type of technology, whatever--if it’s a weapon or its boots or uniform items or whatever--obviously is going to be very dependent upon the situation and the role of that unit,” said Sgt. Webb.
The ACLU of Kentucky, however, says the program needs more transparency, and that while some of the equipment is justifiable, they disagree that police departments need such heavy weaponry.
Kate Miller, program director for the ACLU of Kentucky, says that while police have a dangerous job, deploying military weapons is the wrong option.
“The tactics that we’ve seen, let’s say, come out of Ferguson involving tanks or high-grade military equipment, is going to frighten people,” said Miller. “And that type of fear undermines the public trust in law enforcement, and it makes it more difficult for police to protect and serve. That’s a real concern for our organization, and for many Americans and Kentuckians.”