Central Virginia Localities Have Similar Military-Surplus Weapons as Ferguson Police

Lynchburg, VA - Many people have raised concerns about the militarization of police, after images of officers in Ferguson, Missouri began to circulate.{}Pictures of officers wearing military-like gear, pointing assault rifles out of armored vehicles.Like Ferguson, many police agencies in Central Virginia have gotten gear from federal military transfer programs and homeland security grants.{}The federal programs that have armed police officers in Missouri with military-surplus weapons have also armed many Central Virginia localities.Recently, people have scrutinized the programs after seeing images of heavily armed Ferguson officers with their gun drawn at an unarmed man.Under those programs, law enforcement agencies, like those in Bath County with a population of around 45 hundred people, were able to obtain grenade launchers.Nelson County received 8 pieces of body armor. While Amherst and Franklin County received 41 assault rifles.{}Many of these programs began or expanded as a response to the September 11th attacks to improve terrorism response.In 2011, the Lynchburg Police Department spent around a quarter million dollars of a homeland security grant on a BearCat armored vehicle for the Tactical Unit, to replace an old one.It is the same vehicle seen on the streets of Ferguson.In a 2011 interview, a now retired Lynchburg Police Lieutenant talking about the BearCat.{}"We've shot it with our high-powered rifles and it scratched the paint and that was it" said Former Lt. E.M Williams - {}Most recently City Council approved a 34-thousand dollar grant requested by the Lynchburg Police Department to purchase gas masks, gas mask filters, and helmets for officer safety.