Authorities responding in Orlando to what became the worst mass shooting in U.S. history used military-style equipment and weapons and an armored tactical vehicle, reframing the debate about what police should have in their arsenal.
The issue was raised often as police responded to unrest in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 and in Baltimore last year. Most often, the questions centered on whether police erred by responding with too much force or equipment that seemed heavy-handed and whether the Pentagon should continue a program that sends excess gear and weapons free to local police departments that ask for them.
Circumstances were different Sunday. It was not immediately clear whether Orlando police used any equipment provided by the Pentagon in responding to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub, but photographs taken at the scene show police wearing far more armor than is common on the average foot patrol by U.S. troops in a war zone, underscoring the threat they thought they could face.
One image distributed by the Associated Press depicts a SWAT team member with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department wearing armor over an olive-green suit that includes a throat protector, a groin protector that hangs below his armored vest and deltoid armor that covers his shoulders. He’s armed with a black submachine gun known as a UMP, short for Universal Machine Pistol. It’s favored by both SWAT units and U.S. Special Operations troops in raids because it is easier to aim in close quarters than a rifle. A black, tactical knife is strapped to his left shoulder.
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Image courtesy nbcphiladelphia.com
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