Florida Today says that the eight law enforcement agencies in Brevard County have more than 1,100 pieces of military surplus equipment, including 400 assault rifles, a mine-resistant armored vehicle and a Vietnam-era helicopter. The newspaper is one of many in the U.S. that has inventoried the military-style gear of local police agencies in light of the controversial show of force by cops during protests of a police shooting in Ferguson, Mo. About 2.42 million military surplus items worth $1.32 billion are being used by police nationwide.
Brevard’s armored vehicle belongs to police in West Melbourne, population 19,000. “All those armored vehicles have been used to rescue kids in schools and people in shopping malls,” explained West Melbourne Police Lt. Mark Thompson, citing mass shootings around the country. In Brevard County, some law enforcers carry military assault rifles on routine patrol. “You don’t need a big gun until you need a big gun,” said sheriff’s Lt. John Coppola, who oversees most of the surplus buying for the agency.