Defund the police? Murkowski says no. But she says they don’t need bayonets.

A Nome Police Department vehicle. Only a few Alaska police departments have received surplus military gear and Nome was not among them. (Matthew F. Smith/KNOM)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is against defunding the police, but she wouldn’t mind disarming them of weapons of war.

Murkowski is co-sponsoring an amendment that would ban the Pentagon from transferring certain surplus military weapons to police departments. Murkowski, in a written statement, said local law enforcement agencies don’t need things like grenade launchers, armored drones or bayonets.

“Police should be there to serve the community, and there is no need for military-grade combat equipment to be on the streets of our cities in order to do that,” she said.

The program that puts military equipment in the hands of law enforcement personnel has long been controversial, and opposition has grown since police used tear gas or similar chemical agents on citizens protesting police brutality this spring.

Protestors have called for defunding police departments. Sen. Murkowski told constituents last week she’s against that.

“I do not believe that the answer is to defund our police,” she said in a telephonic town hall meeting Thursday. “I think we recognize that we need law enforcement to keep our communities safe.”

Police departments in Alaska have made limited use of the Pentagon surplus equipment program over the years. The list of transferred equipment includes about 60 rifles. They went primarily to the Alaska Department of Public Safety and also to Juneau Police.

The Fairbanks Police Department obtained a mine-resistant vehicle worth nearly $700,000.

Among the items the Anchorage Police Department got were unmanned vehicles, bomb disposal kits and several dozen pairs of mittens.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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