"We know that some people may think we make it worse by looking intimidating, but we're most concerned about the protective aspects of it."~Captain Jeff Murphy, East Lansing Police Department
East Lansing, Mich. (WILX) The East Lansing Police Department has a lot of training in civil disorder. Unfortunately, said Capt. Jeff Murphy, that training comes from experience.
"You always prepare for the worst and you hope the worst doesn't happen but at times it does," said Murphy. "That's why we have to be prepared with training and equipment."
As violence rages in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., a lot of people are questioning the tactics and equipment of police officers in tense situations.
The vast majority of the time, ELPD officers only need their bulletproof vests. But that doesn't mean they don't have other, heavy-duty equipment in reserve.
Officers are equipped with vests that can withstand a rifle shot, and helmets to shield them from flying rocks, bottles or other debris.
"It's very seldomly used," said Murphy. "But we would be very irresponsible not to provide our officers with it because for that one time in a career or a couple times in a career where you really need it, our officers need it to keep them safe, which in turn keeps the public safe."
Officer safety is top priority, Murphy said, even if it means putting on heavy gear and potentially riling up the crowd.
"We've been criticized in the past: 'you're putting your helmets on and it's intimidating and it upsets the crowd,'" Murphy said. "Well we're putting our helmets on because people are throwing rocks and bottles at us."
The police are the only ones that can't leave when things get dangerous, Murphy said, and if they run, public safety is in jeopardy.
"Our main goal is to protect the officers because if the officers aren't protected, they can't serve anybody else," he said. "We know that some people may think we make it worse by looking intimidating, but we're most concerned about the protective aspects of it."
An inter-regional special response team has an armored vehicle that is sometimes used in tactical situations. The government also supplies military rifles, backpacks and other supplies when inventory is available.
Murphy says the department always has tear gas and other chemicals on hand, but using them is a last resort.