Local officers rely on military surplus items

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – For more than a decade, the federal government has sent surplus military gear to local law enforcement agencies around the country.

The situation in Ferguson, Mo., has raised some questions about what some are calling the militarization of police, and federal officials are now reconsidering the idea.

But in a day when budgets are tight for everybody, local law enforcement has come to rely on the surplus items they get from the U.S. military.

“It basically adds to the level of safety for the whole community,” Boardman Township Police Chief Jack Nicholas said.

His department was one of several in the Valley to receive a $750,000 M-RAP vehicle this year, which stands for mine-resistant and ambush-protected. They are completely impenetrable and are used for rescue missions.

“If we ever had an active shooter scenario at a school or the hospital or the mall, this vehicle would give us the ability to evacuate 25 or 30 people at a time completely safe. Nothing could puncture it,” Nichols said.

He said the situation in Missouri shouldn’t leave local citizens afraid. And any military equipment that’s in use helps keep residents safe.

“You would never see this thing out patrolling the streets,” Nichols said. “A lot of that equipment does have a place. Our SWAT teams have vehicles like that. The bomb squad has vehicles like that.

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said the equipment they receive from the military plays an important role in what they do.

“It has been a benefit for the MCSO because we in law enforcement all across the United States have had our budgets cut, so anytime we can get surplus items, it’s a plus for all of us,” Greene said.

He does not foresee something like what happened in Ferguson ever happening here.

“I would hope that in Mahoning County, we don’t have those types of racial tensions going on and if we felt something like that was building within the community, I think it would be in our best interest just as a citizen of Mahoning County to reach out and hopefully diffuse a situation like that,” he said.

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