The Duluth Police Department is holding off on purchasing $125,000 worth of riot gear for officers, after hearing significant community opposition. On Wednesday the department, alongside the Duluth Citizen Review Board, heard comments from the public over the proposed purchase, and many voices from both sides of the issues spoke up.
According to Chief Mike Tusken the gear meant to keep officers safe, and help prepare for the worst.
"It's an insurance policy for us to be ready and prepared should we ever need it, with the hope that we never do," he said.
The department says it would only be necessary for use in very specific circumstances, when property could be damaged or people could get hurt.
But Wednesday night, some members of the public raised their voices, saying the gear could be used to unfairly target certain groups.
"Equipping police with riot gear will only make indigenous people and people of color more vulnerable to violence by police," said Duluthian Kelsey Jones-Casey.
Others said the new gear represents the militarization of police, and drew comparisons to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
"The escalation was prompted by police introducing militarized weapons and brute force into the already terrorized city," said Duluth resident R.B. Brooks.
There was also support for the officers buying the protective equipment.
"I just want to show you my support that you provide this personal protective equipment to the men and women of the Duluth Police Department, so that they can fulfill their oath that they take to protect and serve this community," said Duluth resident Howard Jacobsen.
That includes first responders who work alongside police officer.
"This is not the go to response, but just like anything this is a piece of equipment that we need to have to be prepared for the worst day," said Shawn Krizaj of the Duluth Fire Department.
Given the many differing views it's likely this remains a contentious issue until a decision is made.
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