Former New York Police Chief Bernard Kerik on Sunday defended the Ferguson, Mo., police for their response to rioting after an officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager, and defended the use of military gear by local police.
"There were Molotov cocktails thrown. There was ... property that was damaged. The police have to respond to that. You can't let the thugs take over the city," he said on CNN's “State of the Union.”
"Were they heavy-handed? I wasn't there. I don't know. Some of the weapons I saw I don't think were needed," he said.
However, he added, "Peaceful demonstrations should be peaceful. The police can do their job, but when the thugs try to take over the community, the police have to act and do whatever they have to do to keep the peace."
Kerik called a Pentagon program that allows surplus military equipment to be given to local law enforcement "absolutely needed."
"This goes back to the early '90s and the drug war. ... Drug dealers had far better equipment, more equipment, more dangerous equipment than the police," he said.
"Then you go into a post-9/11 world and the terror threats that we face. Also keep in mind we have seen a substantial increase in the active-shooter scenarios in our schools, grammar schools, theaters, where police have to respond in a capacity that they have the equipment and the resources necessary to fight that threat. It's absolutely needed."
However, Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who appeared along with Kerik, disagreed.
"A militarized police force facing down innocent protesters with sniper rifles and machine guns is totally unacceptable in America," he said.
"Some of these police departments who have received this equipment have not been properly trained in its use by the military. So, that is a question that some of my colleagues in Congress have said that they are going to try to get answers to," he said.
“It appears that they may have reacted a little quickly on that force continuum when they decided to deal with certainly the protesters,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“Hard to say, sitting a thousand miles away. But I will tell you that you have to at least police officers with the ability to have something to meet those particular challenges,” Rogers added.