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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Police associations are starting to come out in support of a Pentagon program that provides military equipment to local police departments, in spite of backlash in the wake of that equipment's use quelling violence in Ferguson, Missouri.
Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, spoke with Utah's Morning News from his South Carolina home. Canterbury insists most departments use that equipment responsibly, and only to protect, not to target civilians.
"I believe that we're utilizing equipment that's been de-militarized and re-purposed for public safety use for the protection of people in this country," Canterbury said Tuesday.
Canterbury said you can't criticize the use of riot gear and armored vehicles in Ferguson without understanding when and how they were used. Canterbury said they were never used against peaceful protesters.
"Two situations in Ferguson," Canterbury said. "One is peaceful protests where none of the equipment would have been utilized against them, and then a mass gang of criminals that decided to take advantage of a bad situation and loot, burn and steal... [if] the police hadn't had the equipment present at the scene, they would have been criticized for not having it."
Canterbury said there's also a misconception about why smaller departments might need gear from the Pentagon.
Asked why a small town might need armored vehicles, Canterbury answered, "Do they have churches, schools, public buildings that could be the scene of a mass shooting such as Columbine or the Navy Yard or Fort Hood? And the answer is absolutely yes. Shootings in schools happen all over the country, and especially in small towns."
"So, those vehicles are armored vehicles, not armed vehicles," he continued. "They're used more for rescue and protection of law enforcement than they would ever be used as aggressive weapons."