Military gear for local law: 'I think the program is getting a bum rap'

EUGENE, Ore. -- The police response to the riots in Ferguson, Mo. have raised a lot of questions, one being the the military-style weapons being used.

For the past decade, surplus military equipment has been sent to civilian police departments across the country.

Much of heavy weaponry and the armored transport seen in the videos surfacing in Ferguson came from the Pentagon defense logistics agency's Law Enforcement Support Office.

Nine counties in Oregon and Washington also received military surplus equipment and weapons through the LESO.

Records from the office state that law enforcement agencies in Lane County received 76 assault rifles, 490 night vision accessories, 36 pieces of body armor, and two armored vehicles.

"I think the program is getting a bum rap. As for what it's being used for because it's got great uses for law enforcement," said Lane County Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Doyle.

41 of the assault rifles went to the Lane County Sheriff's Office. Sgt. Doyle said the sheriff's department uses seven of those assault rifles to shoot blank ammo for things like honor guard ceremonies.

The other 34, he says, have been converted to semi-automatics and are only used in high-risk scenarios involving a potentially armed suspect.

Sgt. Doyle also said the guns date back to the Vietnam War, if not earlier.

A spokesperson from Eugene Police said their military surplus supplies include tools and a Humvee. The vehicle is reserved for rescue missions, from floods to hostage situations.

The tension in Ferguson prompted many in Washington to reconsider the program. Regional Admiral John Kirby with the Pentagon responded, stating:

"We're not going to give more equipment or equipment that's inappropriate for use by a law enforcement agency that's small and doesn't need it, you know? Just because they ask for a helicopter doesn't mean they get a helicopter. There is a due process here."

President Obama made a statement Monday saying he believed this program would be necessary, but that steps need to be taken to reexamine how funds are being used.