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CSPD says its military-grade equipment is for safety

Police Military Equipment

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - With images of police using tear gas, wielding assault rifles and patrolling the streets of Ferguson, Missouri in armored vehicles, some criticize the over-militarization of American police.

The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concern about the trend in a report, "The Excessive Militarization of American Policing."

The Colorado Springs Police Department, like many departments around the country, obtains equipment from the military through a re-utilization program.  While some of the gear is tactical, all of it is meant for safety of citizens and police, according to CSPD.

"This is equipment that taxpayers have already paid for, that the military has used overseas for their various operations," said Lt. Sal Fiorillo with the tactical operations section of CSPD. "We're able to obtain this equipment because they're going to decommission it anyway."

The equipment the department has obtained over the past few years includes 50 to 100 fleece pants, 50 to 100 backpacks with rain gear, sleeping bags, MREs, five Humvees, 140 M16 A1s outfitted for patrol and 14 M14s for specialized enforcement.

The Humvees are used not for tactical purposes, but for extreme weather events.

"Obviously we have issues with flooding due to the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires," Fiorillo said. "We've experienced severe blizzards in Colorado Springs, so we can use these vehicles to transport personnel and get to locations that we otherwise couldn't get to."

Through the Department of Homeland Security, CSPD also obtains grant money to apply for tactical equipment for the region, including El Paso, Teller, Lake, Park and Chaffee counties.

"All of our equipment that we obtain for our regional explosives unit comes from the Department of Homeland Security and is made available to the five county region," Fiorillo said.

CSPD has obtained one armored vehicle from the Department of Homeland Security that is used throughout the region, mainly for hostage situations or standoffs.

"We obtain the equipment to protect the citizens," Fiorillo said. "We operate off the priority of life model. Our first priority is hostages or innocent bystanders, then our priority is going to be law enforcement."

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