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Coming to a Metrorail station near you: Miami-Dade’s anti-terrorism squad

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Miami Herald

By Douglas Hanks

Miami-Dade has a new tactic for fighting terrorism: deploying police with rifles, gas masks and riot helmets to well-traveled public places, including Metrorail stations, County Hall and courthouses.

Members of the new “Rapid Deployment Force-Counter Terrorism” can travel in an armored vehicle that’s equipped with an overhead turret and slots for firing rifles. It was parked in the public square in front of the Stephen Clark government center in downtown Miami on Monday while the County Commission was inside for an emergency meeting to approve a resolution condemning Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro.

A police spokesman said the unit is there to be noticed, with the deployment designed to remind would-be terrorists and others that Miami-Dade can respond aggressively to threats. “We’re trying to avoid someone thinking they can go out there and try something,” said Lt. Juan Villalba Jr., a spokesman for the county police department. We’re “deploying them throughout Miami-Dade County to showcase our presence and readiness should there be anybody out there that’s trying to plan some type of harm to our residents or our visitors.”

Civil-liberties advocates see the display of force as an affront to efforts at smoothing relations between police and the public.

“Utilizing weaponry that’s appropriate in war time, we think, creates a barrier and tensions between the community and the police force,” said Jeanne Baker, chair of the police-practices committee for the Miami chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “We have a very well-established policy and commitment to the non-militarization of local police forces.”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article166374222.html