LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The president of a law enforcement union for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies Wednesday called for an increase in the “militarization” of local police officers in the wake of the Orlando terror attack.

George Hofstetter, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), said in a statement the “militarization” of police became a talking point after police responded to protests and rioting in Ferguson,
Missouri, and in Baltimore in recent years.

ALADS represents more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.

According to Hofstetter, the use of surplus equipment such as armored vehicles that had been provided by the Pentagon should no longer be criticized after a string of mass shootings across the U.S.

“Critics questioned whether the responses using such equipment ‘seemed’ heavy-handed and whether the Pentagon should continue providing surplus gear to local police departments for free,” Hofstetter said. “The mass murder in Orlando, San Bernardino, and other incidents where local police had to engage and trade gunfire with heavily armed suspects should put a rest to those criticisms.

“In Orlando and in San Bernardino, for good.”

Since 2006, law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County have received more than 3,400 assault rifles, seven armored vehicles, 15 helicopters and about 1,700 pieces of body armor from the Defense Department program. Orange County law enforcement agencies have received around 400 assault rifles, two armored vehicles, a helicopter and about 300 pieces of body armor.

The Defense Department views the program, which according to the Associated Press has handed out more than $5.1 billion in military property since it started, primarily as a way to get rid of equipment it no longer needs.

Under the program, the Los Angeles Police Department received multiple shipments totaling some 1,680 M16 assault rifles, which were converted from fully automatic, three-round burst weapons to single action AR-15s and provided to patrol officers, the Associated Press reported.

The Covina Police Department is one of several in California that received an MRAP, a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle.

The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights activists say the sight of local police officers in military-style gear could put increasing strain on community relations.

“We’ve seen a number of instances in which police departments receive training that suggests that they have, what we call, a warrior-type mentality,” according to Kara Dansky, of the American Civil Liberties Union Center for Justice. “They think of themselves as engaging in a battle. The police are here to protect and serve, not treat our neighborhoods like war zones.”

But after 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Hofstetter says such attacks “should also put to rest the bleeding-heart nonsense that it `looks bad’ to have officers suited up in body armor and riot gear and deployed in armored vehicles”.

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