Earlier this month NBC Connecticut Investigates looked at the federal “1033” program helping police get inexpensive military surplus gear.
Since then both the state, and now local police, have suspended their participation, which has brought almost $8 million of equipment here the past five years.
Departments will now be asking themselves critical questions about how, and when, they use this equipment.
Connecticut Police Chiefs Association President and Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said most departments already have policies for military-style equipment.
But for now, association members have hit the pause button on the federal surplus program where they get the gear for three months so every department has policies in place.
“We want to ensure that every police department has developed policies and protocols for the wise use, and the smart use of this sometimes unfortunately necessary equipment,” Mello said.
Most have gotten items like generators, trailers, and lights, saving money. There are also times when departments request things like a mine-resistant vehicle.
“I hate to use this as a reference, but how do you want your police to respond to a situation in Newtown to a school shooting, to a situation at a workplace?” Mello asked.
Dr. Robert Sanders, chair of the national security department at the University of New Haven, told NBC Connecticut Investigates, “We need to look at why, and what we have in our police equipment arsenal.”
At a recent George Floyd protest in Waterbury, a mine-resistant vehicle was parked a few blocks away, but was still spotted by participants. Sanders asked, “Is it completely out of the protest area, or is it so close that people who are exercising their First Amendment rights can view it?”
Sanders said if there’s intelligence a protester plans to get violent, that’s one thing. Otherwise, police need to ask themselves if they really need something like a mine-resistant vehicle there.
Chief Mello said in the coming months local departments will ask the public where it stands on issues like that.
“That’s who’s going to drive the train. Because if the answer to the question is, regardless of the things you describe chief, we still don’t want to have these types of resources, then we won’t.”