Colorado cops given millions in military equipment, but many want demilitarization after Ferguson

DENVER - People across the country are speaking out after images show police in Ferguson, Missouri, dressed in combat gear and armed with assault rifles.  Many are calling for the demilitarization of local police.

The Department of Defense began transferring military equipment to local law enforcement in the 1990's as part of the 1033 program. Since then, it has distributed more than $4 billion worth of equipment. 

According to Colorado Department of Public Safety records, agencies in Colorado have received more than $22 million of equipment.

"Our military has surplus property that they always have and this is a way for that to be put to use in law enforcement agencies," said Stan Hinkley, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

"There is a website that lists the current property that's available and you can make a plea to be awarded that property.  It's sort of a first come, first serve basis," Hinkley added.

7NEWS found Vail, Greeley and Aurora police as well as the Weld County Sheriff's Office have all received Mine Resistant Assault Protective or MRAP Vehicles. 

Records show the Department of Defense has given nearly 1,200 assault rifles to law enforcement agencies across Colorado.

 Other agencies have been equipped with grenade launchers, body armor and rifles through the program.

"The military will use the term 'grenade launcher.' Civilian enforcement doesn't launch grenades, they launch less lethal munitions like tear gas or impact rounds, but it's the same equipment -- different names," Hinkley said.

Some law enforcement agencies say the equipment keeps their staff and the public safe. It does not cost taxpayers additional money because agencies get it for free.  Agencies must cover the costs of maintenance or repair.

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