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For Police, Shootings Reinforce Need for Military-Style Gear

Backlash over the images of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, clashing with officers in combat gear drove an ongoing national push to scale back the militarization of police — an effort that has mostly steamrolled over concerns among law enforcement that they're losing equipment they need.

In the span of six days, police suddenly have a pair of poster cases for the use of military-style equipment: In San Bernardino, California last week, police officers deployed armored vehicles at the scene of a shootout with a married couple who had killed 14 people at a holiday party.

Just days before the California attack, officers in Colorado Springs, Colorado, used armored vehicles to rescue people from the area around a Planned Parenthood clinic where a gunman killed three people, including an officer.

It's too soon to say whether the California and Colorado cases will be enough to quiet calls for demilitarization, but they have brought back the essential question: How much is too much for officers to use in policing American streets?

The scene in San Bernardino, captured live on television, showed officers in tactical gear using two armored trucks and an armored tractor equipped with a shield to box in the SUV carrying Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, after the shootout ended. The couple had fired 76 rounds but were countered by 380 rounds fired by officers, authorities said.

"This type of equipment is critical for us to protect our officers," San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told The Associated Press.

Colorado Springs relied on their armored personnel carrier and a second, bigger one belonging to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office to rescue the wounded and others in the line of fire during the Nov. 27 mass shooting there, Police Chief Pete Carey told council members Monday.

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