Minnesota police departments may have to give up military-style gear, weapons

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Several police departments across Minnesota have in their arsenals things like grenade launchers, sniper scopes, and heavily armored military vehicles – all of which may have to be returned to the federal government.

It's part of a Pentagon program that's been meting out unused military equipment to local law enforcement across the country for years, but now it's being scaled back dramatically under an executive order from President Obama, MPR News reports.

The decision to ban the distribution of certain weapons and tightly regulate others was announced on Monday.

It follows months of controversy over the Ferguson, Missouri police department's heavily armed response to protesters angered over the death of unarmed black youth Michael Brown, according to CNN.

Images of the officers using riot gear and other combat equipment raised questions over whether America's police were becoming militarized, the network says.

One sticking point for some Minnesota law enforcement is the use of grenade launchers, which are included in the "banned list."

Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott defended his department's grenade launchers in an interview with the St. Cloud Times, saying they've proved useful – and that he would "buy another one" if required to return the current weapon.

The newspaper reported last year that the St. Cloud P.D. is one of seven departments in the state with an MRAP, or mine-resistent ambush-protected vehicle – a heavily armored combat personnel carrier.

MPR notes that over 240 state and local law agencies in Minnesota have 5,200 military surplus items they received under the federal program.

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