Local Police Say Military-Style Gear is Needed

By Caitlin Centner | ccentner@wtwo.com

Published 08/26 2014 05:43PM

Updated 08/26 2014 08:32PM

From apps to something more basic, law enforcement uses a variety of tools to keep the public and officers safe. Since the riots in Ferguson, Missouri we've heard many questions about heavily armed police departments.

We checked and found more than 45 million dollars worth of military surplus has landed in Indiana law enforcement agencies since 1995 -- that's according to the state's department of administration.

When you think military-style equipment, you might be thinking large humvees and that's not the case. Many local law enforcement agencies have protective gear at their disposal and they say it's a necessary precaution.   

Clark Cottom said, "The sheriff's department has personal protection equipment such as ballistic helmets and some shields. We currently do not utilize any specialty vehicles or special weaponry but we more or less have protection equipment, bullet-resistant equipment."

Vigo County Chief Deputy Clark Cottom says it's important for police agencies to have some form of riot gear but it's also important to have the right amount of training.

Cottom said, "It's an addition to what might occur at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. You want to make sure your officers are properly trained. Not only on the equipment itself but also on department policy, use of force and the different amendments to the constitution."

He says the key to using this gear, is knowing how to use it properly. It's not doing any good otherwise.

So far, the Vigo County Sheriff's Department hasn't had a need to use this gear, but it's there for precaution. Indiana State Police also have protective gear at their disposal.
Sgt. Joe Watts said, "Helmets, gloves, shields, boots, coveralls, knee pads, elbow pads and a number of items our troopers can put on fairly quickly and get to a civil disorder to be able to prevent injury."

Responding to civil disorders is a big part of their job. ISP has five tactical intervention teams in the central part of Indiana. Sgt. Watts says the gear's sole purpose is to protect.

"That's what the public should really remember. The gear is not to be intimidating to them. It's to protect our troopers. If our troopers cannot to be protected with this gear, then we cannot save lives, we cannot do our job, we cannot protect you."

Watts says without the protective military-style gear, they'd be slowed down in a situation where officers were being targeted.

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