Another move toward a more militaristic police force?
COLUMBIA, Mo 9/24/13 (Beat Byte) --The Columbia Police Department may not get 35 new officers anytime soon. But it may soon get 41 military assault rifles that have sparked controversy as they have appeared in other communities.
"It's an interesting issue no one has publicized yet," said a source close to City Hall who provided the Heart Beat with documents related to the proposed purchase.
A department request dated Sept. 10 asked arms dealers to bid on M4 semi-automatic rifles with a barrel slightly longer than the standard military issue: 16" instead of 14. 5", and streamlights for easier targeting in the dark. The bid also asks that 25 of the 41 rifles come equipped with so-called "holographic weapons sights"-- high-tech aiming devices.
As of one year ago, Columbia police officers carried department-issued 12-gauge shotguns, with properly-trained officers allowed to carry M4 rifles they personally own. The move to purchase dozens of the assault rifles would shift much of their cost to taxpayers.
"I suspect there will be a large cash outlay," explained the Heart Beat source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. To offset the cost, CPD plans to trade in about 60 older firearms and other gear, including several standard-issue semiautomatic pistols.
Protests and petitions greeted M4 assault rifles when Chicago Police officers received them about five years ago. Protestors worried "deploying M4’s in the hood is going to make it more -- not less -- dangerous for the youth." Groups like the Chicago Justice Project agreed, warning the rifles would only escalate violence, creating an even greater threat to both public -- and police -- safety.
Their prediction may have been prescient: gun violence has soared in Chicago since.
Man demonstrating M4 rifle
In 2010, the El Paso, Texas police department purchased over 1,100 M4s, in part to combat drug violence from the nearby border with Mexico. This year, an M4 mission creep seems to have set in, with a Georgia school district requesting the weapons to turn back shooters like the one at Sandy Hook.
An M4 assault rifle can fire double the rounds at nearly triple the distance of a handgun, explained news broadcasts about the Georgia plan this month.
Controversy erupted this spring over the Columbia police department's purchase of an armored personnel carrier Mayor Bob McDavid worried might give the department a "militaristic image."