Sen. Burr warns against curbing military surplus sent to local p - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Sen. Burr warns against curbing military surplus sent to local police

Sen. Richard Burr on Friday defended a Department of Defense program that provides surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. Sen. Richard Burr on Friday defended a Department of Defense program that provides surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -

Sen. Richard Burr isn't on board with efforts to reign in a program that provides local police departments with machine guns and other surplus military equipment. 

A Georgia congressman wants to curb the practice in light of clashes earlier this week in Ferguson, Mo., between protestors and officers in riot gear. The conflict - following the shooting of an unarmed teen - raised questions about whether the officers' tactics were inflaming the same violence they aimed to suppress. 

"Maybe we've gone overboard," Burr said of local law enforcement receiving surplus Department of Defense gear. "That's for close scrutiny to sort of evaluate, but I don't want to see the pendulum swing all the way the other way to where our officers don't have the equipment they need or don't have the types of vehicles that keep them safe." 

Burr made the remarks Friday morning following an event at the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. 

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Thursday he would introduce a bill to to curb what he describes as an increasing militarization of police agencies across the country. 

"Our Main Streets should be a place for business, families and relaxation, not tanks and M16s," Johnson said. "Militarizing America's Main Streets won't make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent." 

Burr said the program was created because "police forces around the country were outgunned by bad guys." 

As an example, he said armored vehicles allow local law enforcement officers to end hostage situations without putting their lives at risk.  

An Associated Press investigation last year found that a large share of the $4.2 billion in surplus military gear distributed by the program since 1990 went to police and sheriff's departments in rural areas with few officers and little crime. 

A WECT investigation published in February identified more than a dozen local law enforcement agencies in southeastern North Carolina armed with military surplus equipment.  

The Brunswick County Sheriff's Office has an armored personnel carrier. Several small-town police departments – including Burgaw, Kure Beach and Whiteville – are equipped with AR-15s. 

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.

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