CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The national debate about the militarization of police is reignited, after recent police brutality protests.
So, 19 Investigates looked into what equipment our local police are using.
We showed Tammie Sebastian a list of supplies the Parma Police Department’s received from the US military in the last several years.
Pistols, riffles, and most recently, a “mine resistant vehicle.”
“The mine resistant vehicle is what jumps out at me,” she said.
Last year, Parma applied for and received one of the trucks built for war zones.
“Do they feel like we’re going to war, and if we are who are we going to war with?” Sebastian asked.
19 Investigates discovered that Ohio departments have actually been getting significantly less equipment from the military in recent years, as the militarization of police continues to be a citizen concern.
According to federal defense data we uncovered, in the two years leading up to the 2014 protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, Barberton, Brunswick, Lorain, Wickliffe and Canton were just a few of 37 Ohio departments that got one of the heavy duty mine resistant trucks.
Parma Police and East Cleveland police are two of only six Ohio departments that have gotten one in as many years since.
Not only has the distribution of these vehicles decreased in Ohio, but in those six years since Ferguson, Ohio departments have gotten about a quarter of what they had been receiving.
Parma police say they just think it’s better to have it and not need it than vice versa.
Sebastian took a picture of Parma’s vehicle moved to a bus lot during the recent protests.
But, Lt. Dan Ciryak says it was only moved away from the police station to protect it from any potential damage.
“It’s only been used so far for training purposes,” he said. “We don’t use this for community policing. This is only brought out for extreme circumstances,” he said.
The huge mine resistant vehicles are worth nearly $800,000, but when departments get them from the military surplus program, they’re free.
“It was at no cost to taxpayers or the city of Parma,” Ciryak said. “It’s just a tool to have. If we need it, we’ve got it.”
He says they’ve got it for active shooter or SWAT situations. It allows officers to get closer to the danger.
“We use it as a defensive tool. It’s not an offensive weapon. There’s no guns or anything mounted to it. It just gives us great protection going into any situation,” Lt. Ciryak said.
Sebastian understands that there may be a legitimate use for a tool like the armored vehicle, if used properly. She just doesn’t want tools like this to blur the distinction between military and police.
“Military says use of force, and police is supposed to be that community relations, minimal use of force and crime prevention,” she said.