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After cop killings, Buffalo police union requests high-powered rifles

Following twin attacks that have killed eight police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., this month, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association on Monday renewed its effort to arm patrol officers with high-powered rifles.

“We’re hoping the administration will recognize that we’re woefully underpowered as far as firepower,” PBA First Vice President John T. Evans said.

“For a police officer to respond to an active shooter with a high-powered rifle, we’re pretty much defenseless,” Evans added. “We’d have to wait for the SWAT Team. In the meantime, the carnage could be terrible.”

Evans specifically referred to an AR-15, which the union believes would cost roughly $1,000 per rifle. He described them as highly accurate long-range rifles, and because many police officers are military veterans, they would be familiar with such a weapon.

The PBA would like to see the city purchase as many as 400 rifles.

“At this point, we’d take six per district,” Evans said. “We’d take anything, so we had something to defend ourselves with.”

At least a year ago, Evans said, he sent a letter with a similar request to Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda but received no response. About four to five months ago, he sent another letter to the Common Council, which replied that it would defer to the commissioner.

Derenda could not be reached immediately for comment Monday.

“I sent another letter to the Common Council, after the Dallas shooting and prior to Baton Rouge, reiterating our need for these weapons and got no response,” Evans said. “Again we’re going to plead with the commissioner to move on this. Hopefully now they’ll see we need them.”

Realizing that the purchase and outfitting of new rifles would take some time, some patrol officers have approached their union about being authorized to carry their own personal rifles while on duty.

“More than a dozen have asked me that personally,” Evans said. “We don’t want to be buying our weapons, but if that’s what we need to be safe, ...”

A 15-year veteran of the police force, who has worked in four of the city’s five geographic districts and with the Mobile Response Unit, Evans was asked about the mindset of patrol officers after Dallas and Baton Rouge.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “You’re concerned, you’re thinking about your families, and it’s really hitting home. It’s not an isolated incident anymore, with a police officer being killed.”

email: gwarner@buffnews.com

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