War On Crime

WSVN — The federal government says the war on crime should not look like a war zone, so they are taking back some of the military equipment given to police departments across South Florida. 7’s Craig Stevens has our story.

The weapons used by soldiers to fight wars around the world have also been used by police on the streets of South Florida.

Miami Gardens Police Sgt. Gerald Machurick: "As fast as you can pull the trigger, you can allow the ammunition to be discharged."

Police have M16 rifles, grenade launchers, even armored vehicles.

North Miami Beach Police Detective Lino Diaz: "This was our first acquisition, which was an M113A1 tank."

From Broward County to the Keys and across the nation, more than $2.6 billion in military equipment has been given to police departments through the military’s Law Enforcement Support Office, and not everyone was happy about it.

Maria Kayanan, ACLU: "When they become more like soldiers, our civil rights and our civil liberties are eroded."

That argument gained ground when riots erupted in Ferguson, Mo. after an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed.

President Barack Obama: "Militarized gear can sometimes give people the feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community."

The president issued an order in October requiring police to return the weapons.

Lino Diaz: "They have their reasons for recalling these things, and I think maybe it might help with the community relations."

The North Miami Beach Police Department was told to give back their tank.

Lino Diaz: "It was used once or twice in the beginning after our first acquisition. This provided cover for us."

Detective Lino Diaz knows the importance of cover.

Lino Diaz: "How lucky I was to be alive."

He was shot while on duty earlier this year. He says these vehicles are not used to attack, but to protect.

Lino Diaz: "This is a rescue vehicle. This is not an assault vehicle."

Armored vehicles like this, grenade launchers and bayonets must also be returned.

Sweetwater Police Chief Placido Diaz: "I think it’s a national trend that’s unfortunate. A negative swipe at policing as a whole. You can’t look at it as a universal problem with police officers."

Sweetwater Chief Placido Diaz agrees with the decision to get rid of the weapons.

Placido Diaz: "I believe strongly in demilitarizing the police department."

His department has to give back a grenade launcher, but he plans to return more.

Placido Diaz: "We’re inventorying all the equipment and we look to give back, not only the grenade launcher, but other items that I don’t believe to be needs of the department."

Police are allowed to keep some guns. They say, even if their equipment changes, the war on crime continues.

Placido Diaz: "You need the proper tools of the trade to protect the community, protect the officers."

Det. Diaz: "We have to be prepared for anything that might rise. Everyone is going to be looking for us."

Departments have until April 1 to return the recalled items.

FOR MORE INFO:

Official Recall of Equipment:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/le_equipment_wg_final_report_final.pdf

Sweetwater Police:
http://cityofsweetwater.fl.gov/police.htm

North Miami Beach Police:
http://www.citynmb.com/police/inspections

More on Officer Lino Diaz Shooting:
http://www.wsvn.com/story/28115632/nmb-police-honor-recovering-officer-after-running-a1a-half-marathon

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