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Unrest in Ferguson prompts questions for local law enforcement
ALBANY - You've seen the video from Ferguson, Missouri. It’s full of startling images you wouldn't believe are coming from America's heartland.
Countless clips show massive protests quelled by police decked out in armored vehicles and combat gear. The scenes made headlines and even caught the attention of the Commander-in-Chief.
President Barack Obama is taking a close look at the face of policing here at home. Specifically, he’s looking into Department of Defense programs which give military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
“It's probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone," the President said Monday. "There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don't want those lines blurred."
Last year, nearly a half billion dollars in gear and weapons were given to police across the country.
That includes deputies in Albany County. They now have an MRAP—“mine resistant ambush protected”—vehicle at their disposal. That’s just the latest addition.
"We've been involved in the program for years. We've received vehicles, pickup trucks, whatever the case may be," said Sheriff Craig Apple.
Apple tells CBS 6 News the MRAP--used once so far—has already saved lives. It was used to help end a standoff in Knox earlier this year. The vehicle, worth more than $600,000, was given to the department for free by the Department of Defense program. Apple’s department must pay to maintain it.
“We're not going to use this thing on patrol, and go out and cruise around the streets and serve warrants on it,” Apple explained.
“It's a restricted use vehicle depending on the situation. Quite honestly, there's only one person who authorizes it to go out. And that's me."
The federal program, Apple agrees, should be strictly monitored, but he hopes the President knows how valuable these tools are.
"[The President] needs to talk to the locals that are using this equipment before he rushes to judgment and ends the program," Apple said.
"I would hate to see one incident down in Missouri have a ripple effect throughout the country.”