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‘Emergency’ riot gear expenditure leaves questions

We’re curious as to why the Lycoming County commissioners, on such short notice, would approve spending $122,000 on “emergency” riot gear and equipment for law enforcement agencies.

The 2-1 vote this past week followed a lengthy discussion on the need for a strong police presence for a controversial event that “may” take place this coming Saturday — a mere 11 days after the vote to approve the funding.

We are told now that the group does not plan to march in Williamsport on that date, although officials are wise not to let down their guard.

Don’t get us wrong — we are all for ensuring that our law enforcement agencies are properly equipped and trained to handle any situation, whether it be a neo-Nazi march or a protest accompanied by riots, looting and vandalism in any of our communities.

But aren’t police agencies already equipped to handle such events?

This move would indicate our police are not fully equipped to handle riots.

If that’s the case, that had better change, what with the national political atmosphere so raucous.

The request came from Sheriff Mark Lusk on behalf of law enforcement agencies across the county.

Lusk said law enforcement needs to be prepared, but few details were provided about the request.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito, who was in the minority to vote against approving the expenditure, was correct to question the resolution, which did not say what equipment would be purchased but did include wording that seemed to target a specific event.

“Giving a blank check is not a prudent practice,” Mirabito said.

We agree.

We also note that $122,000 is a specific enough amount to merit a list of equipment that Lusk wants to buy before taking a vote. Why didn’t the sheriff provide a detailed list for commissioners to review when they were asked to spend that kind of money on short notice? As Mirabito said, “We are not talking about nuclear secrets.”

“It’s better to be prepared and hope for the best,” Commissioner Scott Metzger said of his decision to approve.

We agree with the need to be prepared — and we support a reasonable equipment expenditure if merited — but we cannot help but wonder, why wait so long to seek funding, only to push it through as an “emergency” request?

It’s been months since the neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Movement, originally sought to stage a rally in Williamsport.

We are told now that they are not planning anything in Williamsport this weekend.

We’ll see.

There’s got to be more to this other than just last-minute planning.

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