Cheyenne, WY (KGWN) - Militarization of police forces across the country is a hot-button issue in the wake of ongoing tension in Ferguson, Missouri. But is what's happening there likely to happen in Cheyenne?
The Cheyenne Police Department does take part in the program that allows law enforcement agencies to acquire military surplus equipment. And the CPD has a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.
But CPD Police Chief Brian Kozak said there are several reasons that having military equipment isn't the same as "militarizing" a police force. And that the MRAP and other equipment isn't for everyday use or for every situation, but it's still a necessary option.
"Because just in case you have a crazy person killing people and threatening police officers and we are the ones that have to respond and deal with that situation," said Kozak.
The American Civil Liberties Union issued a report in June condemning the military equipment and tactics employed by local police agencies. According to the report, an estimated 500 law enforcement agencies have MRAP vehicles. It also cited several instances where civilians had been injured or killed by SWAT deployments.
SWAT field officer Terrance Bell says outfitting the CPD for potentially dangerous situations is no different than preparing a firefighter for duty.
"If you don't send a person in who's properly protected their stress level goes up and the opportunity for the use of force goes up," Bell said. He added, "when they know they're protected, it brings those stress levels down."
Kozak said the main reason local PD's "militarize," is a lack of community involvement.
"We have citizens police academies we have training we have community groups citizen advisory so you know that's never gonna happen here in Cheyenne," said Kozak.