Ferguson Police Response Raises Questions About Military Weapons Going To Local Forces

BROOKLINE, Mass. — The tension and violence in Ferguson, Missouri, has raised questions about police operations around the nation.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts recently looked into military weapons going to state and local police departments here. ACLU staff attorney Jessie Rossman says between 1994 and 2009, Massachusetts received more than 1,000 weapons under a federal program that provides used military equipment to police departments for free.

A member of the St. Louis County Police Department points his weapon in the direction of a group of protesters in Ferguson on Wednesday. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

A member of the St. Louis County Police Department points his weapon toward protesters in Ferguson on Wednesday. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

“The militarization that we’ve seen across the nation, and that is standing out in stark relief in Ferguson right now, those same trends of the tactics and the weaponry is happening here in Massachusetts as well,” Rossman said.

The ACLU report says aside from the weapons, the program also distributed armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and a large marine craft among 82 Massachusetts police departments.

The report indicates 26 communities in the state have what are known as “special response units” — groups of officers trained to respond to emergencies that often use military gear. Among them is Brookline, with a unit comprised of 17 officers specially trained for high-level emergencies.

WBUR’s Deb Becker spoke with Brookline Police Superintendent Mark Morgan, who says his department considers several factors before using those types weapons — a system that is reinforced with special training. Listen to her full report above.

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