Over the past week complaints across the country about militarized police forces at some of the protests for George Floyd have had some calling for a re-evaluation of the federal “1033” program, which loans military surplus equipment to police agencies.
It has gotten things like a military helicopter, which assists in things like search and rescue missions, in the hands of the Connecticut State Police at virtually no cost.
“It’s a nice asset for the fleet and it’s actually out there saving lives”, according to CSP Emergency Services Unit Commander Lt. Shawn Corey.
This concern from critics has been more about local law enforcement using items including armored vehicles, like one seen in Fairfield during Super Storm Sandy.
They have helped officers get through difficult terrain like downed trees and high water, and protect law enforcement in volatile situations. But a mine-resistant vehicle, or “MRAP,” owned by the Waterbury PD was spotted near a recent Floyd protest, and that’s where the ACLU of Connecticut said police crossed the line.
“It is an inappropriate use of force. It does chill people’s ability to engage in protected speech”, said ACLU CT Executive Director David McGuire.
1033 equipment has been acquired all across Connecticut - Bridgeport, the Connecticut State Police, New London and Southington all received MRAPs this year. Other departments, including Bristol, Hartford and New Britain have them too. Departments have also received dozens of rifles, sights and night vision goggles.
The ACLU of Connecticut said it wants to get rid of the 1033 program. It points out it’s only been around 20 years and police managed just fine before that.
“It is a balance. You can’t arm police to the teeth for the very small chance that something will happen that’s going to justify that,” McGuire said.
Lt. Corey pointed out though, in 2020, he and fellow law enforcement are often dealing with a public that has more weapons, that are more powerful, and as seen over the past few days, is more willing to attack police vehicles with Molotov cocktails, flip police vehicles over, and set them on fire, making something like a mine-resistant vehicle more valuable.
Lt. Corey added a safety tool that can be utilized, "but we’re gonna be very conservative, bringing that thing out.”