Missouri sheriffs react to new policing order limiting use of military surplus

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 9:16 PM CDT
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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - President Biden signed an executive order on policing. The action comes two years after George Floyd’s death.

The goal is to reform police practices across the country. Part of that order will restrict the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.

Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase says his department and the Ozark County Sheriff’s Office joined together to establish a task force.

The task force allows them to share some of this equipment, including a military-grade vehicle.

”Everything from an MRAP to humvees to rifles to optics,” Sheriff Degase says. “It was nice to be able to obtain that equipment in order to better equip our officers.”

Sheriff Degase says those vehicles and other equipment offer protection to deputies when responding to certain calls.

“It allows us to pull up to houses, barricaded subjects, and be able to get officers closer to a scene where there may be gunfire,” Sheriff Degase says. “Also, it allows us if we have an officer down or injured, we can actually drive right up to that officer, and we have some ballistic protection.”

Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox says it doesn’t only impact his department but also his community.

Sheriff Knox says losing this program and its funding will be detrimental to small, rural agencies.

“Crimes are increasingly getting worse,” Sheriff Knox says. “The violence is getting worse. Oftentimes, the bad guys outgun us, and they have better equipment than we sometimes do.”

Sheriff Degase says military surplus equipment like this is crucial to departments but can be really expensive to get, which is something many rural departments can’t afford to fit into their budget.

“Over the years, we’ve received thousands of dollars of equipment, and that’s money that didn’t have to come out of our budget,” Sheriff Degase says. “A lot of times we’re torn between do we get equipment, do we put on additional personnel, and this has been something that’s kind of relieved that burden a little bit.”

Sheriff Knox agrees, saying this will impact rural departments the most.

The equipment his department wants is to protect their officers.

“We’re not looking for tanks and bazookas and people killer weapons,” Sheriff Knox says. “We’re mostly looking at protective equipment. Sometimes night vision. Sometimes thermal equipment. Protective equipment like shields, bearcats, armored type vehicles.”

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