Waterloo Police: Ferguson events concerning - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo Police: Ferguson events concerning

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

 Area police departments say they are watching the developments in Ferguson, Missouri closely.

The incident has brought concerns of the militarization of local police departments.

We've seen images of police in camouflage gear, uses of rubber bullets and tear gas, and officers with rifles trained on the crowds.

Waterloo Police is one of two in the state of Iowa with an armored truck.

Leaders say they're watching - and learning - from what's going on in Ferguson.

But they say their equipment in place is much different than what you're seeing in Missouri.

This is the Lenco Bearcat - Waterloo's armored vehicle.

It's used for the department's tactical unit.

Safety Services director Dan Trelka says this is used for the officers safety.

"It protects the officers because it's amazing how many rifles we come across and high caliber pistols where a squad car is not going to stop that. The vehicle can generally withstand those type of weapons," said Trelka.

Trelka says the vehicle is used about once a month. He says the department's philosophy is to not use the vehicle unless "there's an articulable threat of gunfire.

He says it's used to get officers to situations like this one - where officers are responding to a man with a gun.

It's also been used to help other departments in times of crisis - like the Maynard bank robbery and ensuing manhunt near Frederika in 2012.

Trelka says he's been watching the events in Missouri and has been concerned about the impact it might have on his department and others across the country.

"We don't want our police department to be viewed as some sort of military type organization. Even though we're a paramilitary organization, we work for the community. We're not an occupying force. We don't want to be viewed that way," said Trelka.

Trelka says this has served as a teaching moment for his department - on what not to do.

He says people should be able to protest freely.

He also says it's served as a reminder that his department should have more minority officers but he says it's been a real struggle to recruit minority candidates.

He says his department's composition should mirror the community.

He says the Waterloo Police Department is "nowhere near that."

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