Missouri Governor: Police Militarization 'Brought Less Safety'

By Susan Jones | August 15, 2014 | 8:08 AM EDT

Smoke billows around a protester on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Freguson, Mo. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)

Update: Police say Officer Darren Wilson, a 6-year-veteran of the Ferguson police force with a clean record, stopped Michael Brown shortly after a strong-arm robbery (involving the use of physical force) at a nearby a convenience store.

(CNSNews.com) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says the militarization of police, on full display in the troubled city of Ferguson earlier this week, is a "very real issue" that needs to be debated.

"Instead of bringing safety, it brought less safety in this situation because people felt diminished and felt controlled in their own community," Nixon told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday.

Police need to be concerned about terrorists with bombs -- "so we need to make sure we have a force that can meet whatever the challenge is," Nixon said.

"But on the other hand, having MRAPs rolling up and down the middle of the streets in the middle of protests is not going to calm people -- it's not going to help get to the healing place where people's voices can be heard and safety can be managed."

Nixon said police forces work best when they "are part of their community...not a separate force to control that community." Police departments "need to reflect the communities they serve," not only in terms of diversity, but "in tone."

A Pentagon spokesman on Thursday explained that the Defense Department administers a law enforcement support program that provides police departments around the nation with surplus military equipment, gear, arms, ammunition, and vehicles.

"This is a useful program that allows for the reuse of military equipment that otherwise would be disposed of that can be used again by law enforcement agencies to serve their citizens. So ...the program serves a purpose.

"That said, it is up to law enforcement agencies to speak to how and what they gain through this system. And I'm not going to inject the Pentagon into this discussion. How this equipment is used to serve local citizens, again, is up for local law enforcement agencies to speak to."

Nixon on Friday called it "good news" that the name of the officer who shot and killed the unarmed Michael Brown last Saturday is finally going to be released on Friday -- "after a great deal of prodding."

The Ferguson police chief's announcement that the officer's name would be released came one day after President Obama said police "have a responsibility to be open and transparent," and one day after Attorney General Eric Holder showed up in Ferguson to meet with Michael Brown's family and local police.

"The Justice Department and the local investigations need to move forward to get justice in this case," Nixon told MSNBC. "There's a lot of ...markers between now and the finish line...And we're all going to be working hard to keep people together during these next difficult coming weeks."

Things were relatively calm in Ferguson overnight, as the state Highway Patrol took control of security with a muted presence on the streets. Nixon said there were no arrests.