The Yakima Police Department, like other law-enforcement agencies around the country, is watching the tense situation in Ferguson, Mo., closely.

Yakima Police Capt. Jeff Schneider says local officers do everything they can to build trust and to work with minority communities. In fact, he tells KIT News, “In our area officers need to be aware of cultural differences. In the Hispanic community, there are some things in that culture that officers need to be aware of so they don’t offend people.”

In Ferguson, violent protests have flared since a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager Aug. 9. Many in the St. Louis suburb complain that police have become too militarized -- that using heavy armor, riot gear and SWAT vehicles sends a chilling message to citizens that erodes trust in law enforcement.

Schneider, however, says Yakima officers receive special training on how to maintain trust with the public assure people that police will protect them.

Yakima does not use any surplus military equipment, Schneider says, but it does have SWAT vehicles and officers use military-style weapons. He says that is only because police face serious threats on the streets every day and they need the best equipment to keep people safe.