LANSING, MI (WLNS) – The mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday afternoon, led police there to use armored military surplus vehicles.
They’re the same type of vehicles many local law enforcement agencies are equipped with, in order to respond to situations like that.
But now, the federal government is forcing some of the military style equipment be returned.
The Obama Administration says those vehicles could send the wrong message in communities, and following the riots in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, President Obama issued an Executive Order to confiscate military style equipment from local law enforcement across the country.
That includes tracked armored vehicles, grenade launchers and bayonets, which have been donated through the 1033 program.
Law enforcement agencies who have MRAPs and other wheeled tactical vehicles are able to keep them.
On November 30th, the feds took the military surplus vehicle from the Lansing Police Department, something that isn’t sitting well with the Lansing Police Chief and the mayor.
“It’s disturbing to know that we no longer will have this tool available to us because it is going to affect the safety of our officers and it is going to affect the safety of our citizens in these highly volatile situations where someone is armed,” Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski said.
For the last 20 years, under what the federal government calls the 1033 program, military surplus equipment and gear was distributed to local law enforcement across the country.
The Lansing Police Department was given an armored military style vehicle back in 2005.
It’s a “Tactical Response Vehicle,” and Chief Mike Yankowski said it was an asset to the department, serving as the best defense mechanism during any extreme violent situation for both officers and community.
“The thing that was unique about the Tactical Response Vehicle, the tracks, that you could go through mud, you could go through fire, you could go through some structures that were a little bit unsteady,” Yankowski said.
Back in May, President Obama said allowing the police to use this kind of military equipment can intimidate local residents. However Chief Yankowski said it does just the opposite.
“It is a rescue vehicle, it’s used to keep our community safe and it only comes out when it’s needed, for barricaded subjects that were armed, In tense situations where we knew firearms were a part of the scenario,” he said.
Michigan State University Police and the Michigan State Police both have tactical armored rescue vehicles. They can assist the Lansing Police with it, if they ever need it.
However Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said having to rely on that, could put the Lansing Police Department and its officers at risk.
“And so to say because in Ferguson they misused some equipment, we’re going to punish every police department that uses it appropriately.. It doesn’t work,” Mayor Bernero said. “You do what’s right day in and day out to keep people safe. We stood by the use of that thing, it has never been misused.”
“It’s very upsetting to us and law enforcement and our officers go out there every single day, put their life on the line, the bravery and the courage and all we’re saying is we want to give them a little extra protection,” Yankowski said.
Chief Mike Yankowski said the public’s perception of law enforcement can often times be misguided, that’s why he’s encouraging people to sign up for the Citizen’s Police Academy.
The department’s second session starts in January and it offers an up-close view of the day-to-day operations of the Lansing Police. The 12 week, 40-hour course is designed to create a relationship between Lansing citizens and the Lansing Police Department, by increasing communication, understanding, and much more.
Anyone 18 years of age or older can participate. If you would like to sign up, click here.