Kirk says police are too militarized

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said Friday that "too many police departments are militarized" and that more training is needed to improve relations between minority communities and police across the country.

"I have been critical of the Ferguson police department," Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, said during a meeting with the Daily Herald Editorial Board. He was referring to the 2014 fatal police shooting of unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb. The shooting sparked weeks of violence and protests. "If you dress the police and equip them like infantry, they'll begin to act like infantry. ... Then you get a situation like Ferguson where there's no social contract."

Instead, he said, "in a situation in which everybody on the ground is a civilian, and the potential rioters are taxpayers and voters, then you've got to be in a much more cooperative arrangement."

Kirk is in a heated battle for a second term against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates. The nationally watched race is considered key to the balance of power in the Senate, where Democrats hope to regain control come November.

Kirk spent a portion of Friday meeting with more than a dozen mayors from the Northwest suburbs, discussing veterans issues, street gangs and ways to combat the heroin epidemic.

Duckworth has been outspoken on police violence and race relations, describing herself as "the first candidate for U.S. Senate in Illinois to release comprehensive police reform plans" calling for police to wear body cameras and independent reviews of police-involved deaths. "The need for such reforms, plus real accountability, are increasingly clear. An essential component of effective policing is having the trust of the community," Duckworth said in a statement following the release of a video showing Chicago police fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

The case resulted in the firing of Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy as well as the dismissal of several other officers who new Superintendent Eddie Johnson said lied about the shooting. A special grand jury will be empaneled in the coming weeks to investigate the possibility of a cover-up by police.

  U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is greeted by Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes while arriving for a meeting with suburban mayors Friday at the Arlington Heights Village Hall. Bob Chwedyk/
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