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Posted: Thursday, 21 August 2014 3:40PM

Residents Speak Out Against Militarization Of Police



The Berrien County Board of Commissioners heard an earful from six people during Thursday's meeting, all upset by what they view as the militarization of police throughout the state. Ray Kirkus of New Buffalo has been a long-time critic of the Berrien County Sheriff's Department taking in surplus military equipment.

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Kirkus listed off some of the weapons the sheriff's department has received.

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Undersheriff Chuck Heit spoke to WSJM News after the meeting and said the concerns he heard are unfounded.

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Several who spoke, including Ed Pinkney of Benton Township, referenced the unrest and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where police have been using armored vehicles in response to protests and unrest that have followed the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

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Heit says without all the facts being known about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri that has prompted nearly two weeks of unrest, he can't address the concerns of Pinkney and several others who said they're afraid of a militarized police presence like what has been seen there. He adds they only use the armored vehicles and other items when it's absolutely necessary.

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In addition to urging a stop to adding military equipment to police forces, one person urged the county board to hold public hearings on the issue and present evidence that authorities actually need to have armored vehicles and military weapons.

(Note: MRAP pictured is an example of one of the vehicles now owned by the Berrien County Sheriff's Department through the Pentagon's program to get rid of surplus equipment)

   

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