Some of the images this week from Ferguson, Missouri, of heavily armed law enforcement have triggered a debate about whether American police have become too militarized. Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett takes a look at the local impact.
The stunning display of force by police to the initial protests in Ferguson, Missouri, raised questions about how local police departments ended up with military-grade equipment.
Even President Obama weighed in this week.
"There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don't want those lines blurred. That would be contrary to our traditions, and I think that there will be some bipartisan interest in reexamining some of those programs," the president said.
He's talking about the Pentagon’s so-called "1033 program," which was launched in 1997. It allows the Pentagon to provide surplus military equipment at a reduced cost to local police departments.
A Time Warner Cable News review of the equipment transfers shows that since 2006, Albany County law enforcement agencies have received an arsenal of assault rifles and night vision goggles.
Among the big ticket items: a cargo transport airplane, a utility helicopter, a mine resistant vehicle and four utility trucks.
Police and the Pentagon said the military equipment helps officers prepare for terrorist attacks and other worst-case scenarios.
"We're not militarizing law enforcement; we are not pushing things out. It's a process by which this equipment is available should they deem that they need it and they want it. I won't speak for law enforcement, but my hunch is that many of these agencies out there will tell you that some of this equipment saves lives and protects citizens," said John Kirby a Pentagon spokesman.
In June, the House voted overwhelmingly to block legislation that would have stopped the program.
Still, some lawmakers have called for a review in light of what happened in Ferguson.