In the wake of days of aggressive police action responding to protests over Saturday’s fatal shooting by a police officer of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., many observers have decried what’s being called the militarization local police departments.
Fed by a stream of surplus military equipment left over from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many local departments have been taking advantage of federal programs that let them acquire the surplus military gear at no cost.
Even libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul, writing in Time, called for demilitarizing the police.
Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington says his department hasn’t acquired any MRAPs or other surplus military vehicles.
“And we’re pretty transparent about what we do have,” Eddington told Evanston Now, pointing to the news conference the department held last year to show off the old Brinks truck it had turned into what was billed as an “armored surveillance vehicle” equipped with a half-dozen cameras with remote monitoring capability.
Evanston’s converted Brinks truck equipped with surveillance cameras.
Eddington says the truck has proved popular with residents of neighborhoods that have suffered from shootings and other violent incidents, with residents asking officers to keep parking it on their block.
The chief says the department has acquired some military surplus automatic rifles, but that those are only used for training purposes and not assigned to officers on duty on the street.
Eddington says the department rarely has to deal with incidents of threatened civil disorder — most recently called upon to assist at the NATO-G8 Summit in Chicago in 2012.
But Evanston does participate in the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System, an alliance of nearly 100 suburban police departments.
And some of those departments do have armored vehicles, either from private suppliers or the military surplus.