City Council OKs new rifles, cruisers for police department

ELLSWORTH — City police officers will soon be carrying new semi-automatic rifles and driving new, different-looking cruisers following a vote by the City Council Monday night.

The council unanimously approved the purchase of eight M4-style rifles and associated equipment from Windham Weaponry Inc. Each rifle and its equipment costs $1,105, for a total price tag of $8,840.

In a memo to the council, Finance Director Tammy Mote said Police Chief Pete Bickmore made the request to purchase the rifles “due to recent events in the United States involving the shootings of police officers.”

According to CNN, 37 officers have been shot and killed this year around the country. That is almost as many as in all of 2015 (when 41 officers died from being shot).

The Ellsworth Police Department already has similar-style rifles, but Bickmore said there are different models in use and not enough for each officer to have his or her own.

“This [purchase] would allow each officer to have their own rifle for the safety of themselves and the public,” Mote wrote in her memo.

Bickmore said each officer will be able to take his or her rifle to and from work the same way they do now with their department-issued handguns.

He said having the same kind of rifle for each officer instead of a mixture of styles will be better for everyone. If one officer runs out of ammunition, he said, another officer can give that officer a magazine and know that it will fit into the gun.

“It’s all standardized,” Bickmore said. “Everyone has the same weapon. Everything will be interchangeable, and the training is the same.”

The M4 rifle is a shorter and lighter version of an M16 rifle, and is used widely throughout the U.S. military. The Marine Corps, for example, last year approved making the M4 the “primary personal weapon for Marines with infantry battalions, security forces and supporting schools,” according to the Marine Corps Times.

Variants of the M4 also are carried by a number of law enforcement agencies around the country.

The money for the purchase of the guns will come from a department reserve account that is funded by property forfeited in criminal cases.

In a separate vote, the council also unanimously approved the purchase of four 2017 Ford Interceptor SUVs for use as new police cruisers. The cruisers will be purchased from Quirk Ford, which submitted the lowest bid of $102,772. The other bidder was Yankee Ford in South Portland.

Half of the purchase price — $51,386 — will come from a capital reserve account and the other half will be financed.

The new cruisers will sport a different color scheme: most of the vehicle will be black, while the side door panels will be white.

“I think they’ll look sharp,” said Bickmore, who said the department needs four new cruisers because its current fleet of vehicles is aging.

Councilor John Moore joked that he had just gotten used to the current color scheme of the department’s cruisers and that he will have to train his eyes to be on the lookout for the new ones when they arrive.

Lt. Harold Page said the new cruisers will likely be in Ellsworth between 60 and 90 days from now.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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