On Friday night, Oakland police were getting ready for a demonstration that's supposed to be organized by Occupy Oakland. Police are anticipating the arrival of the Occupy group. The group said they are demonstrating in solidarity with people in Ferguson and also calling attention to police action in Oakland and the Bay Area in general.
The Bay Area and Oakland in particular has seen its share of public demonstrations that have boiled over. But police tactics and the equipment used in these large demonstrations is getting fresh scrutiny because of what happened in Ferguson Missouri this week.
"Since the mid-1990s, based on a program authorized by congress then, local police jurisdictions have been allowed to ask for and receive for free from the defense department, military grade weaponry," Will Mathew said.
This summer, the ACLU issued a report called, "War Comes Home the Excessive Militarization of American Policing."
According to the ACLU, the use of this equipment can harm the relationship police agencies should have with the communities they serve.
"Is this kind of style weaponry really necessary? Does it undercut a key police goal, which is ensuring trust with the community that it serves?" Mathew said.
Commander Richard Corriea with the San Francisco Police Department says they make extra efforts to communicate with community leaders before even thinking of rolling out any equipment.
"If you start from the philosophy that you're going to support peaceful protest, I think good things flow from that," Corriea said.
Images of armored personnel carriers on U.S. city streets are powerful and affect how the public perceives the police.
"People are talking about the image of the tank and that sort of stuff and those are frightening images. And for the life of me I don't know what would precipitate that," Corriea said.
Under what's called the 1033 Program, local police departments can apply for surplus military equipment and can even get brand new items like drones and machine guns.
It's a program that just got re-authorized by congress.
"Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was one of the five Bay Area representatives that voted to continue this program," Maplight Foundation spokesperson Daniel Newman said.
The ACLU would like local communities to have a public hearing when local departments acquire this equipment, so the public can have a voice.