Police forces around the United States are militarizing at an alarming rate, often without the knowledge of those who pay them, a criminal justice expert said Friday.

“Some of these city councils only become aware of what their police have and what they’ve been doing in the wake of a tragedy,” said Tim Lynch, the director of the Project on Criminal Justice at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank.

“Then members of the city council start asking questions that should have been asked initially,” he said. “Does this community that hasn’t had a murder in ten years need an armored personnel carrier?”

The debate about increased militarization of police drew renewed attention this month ever since the Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo. Although there has been a large amount of looting and rioting in the town, there have also been incidents captured on film of peaceful protesters being confronted by police in full riot gear using tear gas and rubber bullets.

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