BLOG: York County sheriff signs letter to McGinty

Greg Gross

Rich Keuerleber, the York County sheriff, has joined other law enforcement officials from across the state to call on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty to say where she stands on providing "protective" gear to police officers.

Last week, her Republican opponent, incumbent Pat Toomey, renewed his call for a federal program that allows local police services to obtain older, unused military equipment at little or no cost to be reinstated. The equipment includes everything from guns to armored vehicles.

On Tuesday, the McGinty campaign said she supports the program and issued the following statement: "As the daughter of a police officer, I'm always going to fight to make sure cops get the equipment they need to stay safe and to keep us safe. So, I support the program that enables local law enforcement agencies to buy needed surplus equipment. But we should always use common sense in making judgments about what truly is needed since we want people to feel comfortable and safe in their communities."

The statement came after the McGinty camp and McGinty previously declined to state where she stood.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reached McGinty's camp for comment last week and the campaign declined to state where she stands on the issue. It wasn't the first time McGinty dodged the question. During a pre-April primary debate, she declined to say whether she supports President Barack Obama's order that ended transferring combat-style gear police, the Associated Press reported.

A Daily Beast report published Tuesday notes Toomey's stance on the program have changed since he was in the House of Representatives. In 2000 he voted for an amendment that would have ended the program. In the report, Toomey's communications director said things have changed drastically since Sept. 11, 2001.

On Wednesday, Keuerleber and 21 others signed on to the letter, which cited the June attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando as why police need the gear. It urged McGinty to not only state where she stands but also get behind efforts to bring back the program.

The topic of police acquiring military-style equipment became hotly debated in recent years as images of police armored vehicles and heavily armed officers toe-to-toe with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police-involved shooting death of Michael Brown and in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died in police custody became almost normal on the evening news.

The ACLU notes in a June 2014 report that "neighborhoods are not war zones, and police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies."

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