Local police acquiring military gear from the government
By Elicia Dover
(KATV)-The protest events in Ferguson, Missouri have shown local police officers looking like soldiers, carrying M-16 assault rifles, driving in armored cars and wearing camouflage. All of those items came from the federal government and much like Ferguson, local police departments in Arkansas have been acquiring military equipment from the government recently. But the ACLU says departments like the Springdale police highlighting their militarized gear in a recruitment video have gone too far. In 2014, they received 22 M-16s from the federal government. "We need them to stop just willy-nilly providing these weapons of war to states," said Rita Sklar of the ACLU Through a federal program, the government has handed down 34 million dollars worth of military equipment to Arkansas agencies. Springdale isn't alone, the Conway Police Department, which had only one murder last year, got 30 assault rifles in 2014. Training is up to the individual agencies. Towns of similar size, like Bryant received 20 M16's in 2013, but neighboring Benton, only has one. But Bryant did acquire from mine resistant ambush vehicle from the government. They aren't the only ones, counties and police forces all over the state have applied for the armored vehicle and gotten them, with 5 more police forces waiting in the wings for an MRAP vehicle. The agency that takes requests, the Arkansas Law Enforcement Support Office, says they rarely turn requests down if the department meets qualifications. "It happens occasionally but not often," said James Ray of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Support Office. The city of Hot Springs said their need for a mine resistant vehicle is because they're the "regional shopping hub and tourism capital" creating a "unique opportunity for domestic or foreign terrorism." Even towns like Marked Tree getting their share of the government's handed down defense items. The town population of 2,500 has 3 assault rifles. In 2013, the Sherwood Police Department, Saline County Sheriff's Office and seven other agencies were each given a grenade launcher.
KATV ABC 7 in Little Rock, Arkansas covers news, sports, weather and the local community in the city and the surrounding area, including Hot Springs, Conway, Pine Bluff, Jacksonville, Sherwood, Stuttgart, Benton, Bauxite, East End, Scott, Pinnacle, Maumelle, Gibson, Landmark and Hensley.