OXFORD — Many articles have been written about the militarized equipment given to law enforcement agencies across the nation. I read constantly how police officers should reject the equipment because they are not the military. What I don’t see in print are the benefits that having such equipment provides.
First, let me speak clearly about what law enforcement agencies are getting. They get automated external defibrillators, office furniture, cots, equipment bags, computers, light generators, tourniquets, robots, rifles, storage containers — just to mention a few — and, yes, much-needed body armor. They are not getting tanks, rocket launchers, helicopter gunships or anti-missile batteries.
The equipment given to these agencies has already been paid for by taxpayers. Why waste the valuable equipment by destroying it when it can continue to save lives? Oxford Police Department has already saved lives with this equipment.
I have read several liberal viewpoints expressing displeasure about the “secrecy of the program.” This — coupled with the talking points from the racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo., from 2014 — are complete nonsense. There is no secrecy to the program. It has very strict guidelines set out by the Department of Defense. And it’s as simple as a Freedom of Information Act request.
The equipment used in Ferguson was law enforcement equipment that can be purchased by any agency in the United States. There were no tanks or missile launchers used. Agencies can’t get that type of equipment, nor do they need it.
Ask yourself these simple questions: If I am in an emergency situation and need the police, will I call them? When they arrive, do I want them well-prepared?
Those who persist in protesting against police using this equipment have never been shot at during an emergency call or had officers wounded due to the lack of body armor. The need for equipment affects many departments, regardless of size or manpower. Some agencies can’t even afford rifles for their officers. With that fact, I ask: Do you want an officer who is armed only with a handgun to face a suspect who is firing a rifle at them or the public? I don’t.
Law enforcement in America has changed tremendously over the last 20 years. Officers today deal with protesters, active shooters and terrorism. Law enforcement administrators must continue to balance the need for officer safety while maintaining a pro-community department.
Body armor and similar life-saving equipment are expensive and therefore difficult for many agencies to afford. This is unfortunate for both the men and women who protect and serve as well as the public. The 10-33 program benefits everyone, including the very people who protest against it.
I, along with other administrators, will not apologize for protecting our officers or our communities.
Bill Partridge is chief of the Oxford Police Department.