Deputies: Surplus military equipment helpful to agency

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Military-style equipment in the hands of local police agencies. The issue has come to the forefront after this week's violence in Missouri.

Surplus military gear is made available through a government program that's been around for decades.

You've seen the pictures coming from Ferguson, Missouri: Police in riot gear and armored cars on the streets. Some describe it as more of a military than police presence.

Research published by the New York Times shows how much surplus military equipment winds up in the hands of local law enforcement agencies from the Pentagon.

Some of it has gone to the Yakima County Sheriff's Office.

"The tools that we are being given as long as they are being responsibly used are very effective to help us to maintain order," said Yakima County Sheriff's Detective Sergeant Mike Russell.

Search and rescue vehicles, tents, generators, flack vests and rifles have come to the sheriff's office from the federal government.

Detective Sergeant Mike Russell says the rescue vehicles came in handy when the Nile Valley flooded back in the 1990s. They helped deputies deliver supplies to people cut off by the water.

Other military equipment has gone to agencies across Yakima County. But, some feel it's too much.

"I think they're going overboard," said Israel Garcia. "I think they're asking for war."

According to the New York Times report, agencies in Yakima County have received 52 assault rifles, 22 night vision pieces and one mine-resistant vehicle under the program since 2006.

Equipment that some say officers need to do their jobs.

"They go through things every day that we don't know about," said Randy Eneix. "I'm sure there are times they feel threatened enough to where some of that stuff might by pretty useful."

"For those who will not allow themselves subjected to peace, there has to be a level of force that is given to law enforcement to allow us to take people into custody to disperse violence or any crowds," said Russell.

The free Defense Department program started in the 1990s. And, the equipment departments have received make up only a small part of what's in their inventory.

The Yakima Police Department couldn't say how much, if any, equipment it has under this program in time for this story. Grandview police says it has an armored vehicle for its SWAT team and medical kits. Sunnyside police received parachutes, ATV's, rifles and optical gear.

The New York Times report shows agencies in Kittitas County received a dozen guns and two armored vehicles since 2006.