FAIRFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — The doors are heavy on this military-grade Light-Armored Vehicle, or LAV. They’re meant to be that way.
Vehicles just like this one kept soldiers safe in the Gulf and Iraq Wars. But this tank-like vehicle isn’t on a battlefield. It is sitting in a Fairfield Police Garage. Even Police Chief Gary MacNamara will admit its appearance is intimidating.
“I can tell you this piece of equipment certainly didn’t have that look of intimidation when we were utilizing it during Sandy,” he said.
Police used this vehicle to search for trapped residents in Hurricanes Sandy’s aftermath, an operation that would have taken longer if they didn’t have this tool.
Just like local departments across the state, the Fairfield Police Department has also collected dozens of weapons from the Department of Defense. “What we have to be prepared for is to have resources in case we’re put in a position where we could use something,” Macnamara said.
But others are not convinced. “It’s more the heavy artillery that creates this warfare mentality,” said David McGuire, with the American Civil Liberties Union, which wants more oversight into tools just like these. “The fear is that local law enforcement will begin to treat the people they serve as the enemy. That is a real concern.”
Macnamara said, “We’re not militarizing our police department. Our tactics are not changing. What we’re doing is utilizing surplus material for certain situations.”
Often times, McGuire says there are no records for when these tools are utilized, and that is what he wants changed.
“What we think needs to happen is to have the legislature step in and require some sort of oversight,” he said.