ABC News(NEW YORK) — Former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Sunday that the federal programs that arm local forces with military-style equipment should be reviewed, perhaps limiting access to situations when there is “a major emergency.”
The issue of whether police should be using military equipment has heated up after Missouri police began patrolling the streets of Ferguson, Mo., in Humvees, dressed in SWAT gear, and pointed automatic weapons at crowds in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown.
“I think the military equipment, the distribution of excess military equipment, has to be examined.” Kelly told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week. “The optics … are not good. People get uneasy when they see Humvees, military vehicles, heavy weapons.
“I think the fundamental question is ‘What is the need? Do we need that equipment? And does it make people feel like the police are an occupying army?’” Kelly continued.
Local forces have gained increasing access to such military supplies in recent years after receiving grants from the Pentagon to purchase equipment. President Obama and other elected officials have called for a review of these programs following the unrest in Ferguson.
Kelly suggested Sunday that there be more limited access to these supplies, saying, “Perhaps, this equipment is stored on the state level and distributed when there is a major emergency.”
Kelly also said that police forces should have diversity that in some way reflects the community. He cited New York City’s force — boasting officers from 106 countries — as an example.
“It’s so important to have a police force that reflects, or at least better reflects, the community that you serve,” Kelly said.
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