As shocking images of the military-style police response to civilian protest over the death of an unarmed teen shot by police in Missouri have put the increasing militarization of local police departments in the spotlight, the Bergen County prosecutor says he still supports the plan for the county to acquire two tanks.
Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said he agreed with Attorney General Eric Holder, who said earlier this week that the "deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message."
Molinelli said he still advocates acquiring the tanks, but said of the police tactics used in Missouri, "these Tienanmen Square-like tactics have no place in our society and, when improperly deployed such as in Ferguson, cast an unfair light upon law enforcement."
Bergen County police already deploy a similar type of armored vehicle on their SWAT team and there is no reason the sheriff's department should not also deploy tanks, which will be given free of charge to the county by the Department of Defense, Molinelli said.
The ACLU and Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan have asked Sheriff Michael Saudino to reconsider the tank,which the sheriff said would be used in SWAT situations and during natural disasters such as Sandy.
The county only plans to deploy one such mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle and use the other for parts, Saudino has said. The county will have to pay to insure and maintain the vehicles and train staff on their operation.
There is no timeline on when the vehicles would arrive but Saudino said he hopes to receive them by the end of the year.