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Council approves new semi-automatic rifles for Buffalo police

Buffalo police will be getting those 115 semi-automatic rifles, after all.

But, not until every officer completes sensitivity and de-escalation training, as well as weapons training.

The Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the purchase of the weapons – with a stipulation that the additional training be completed before officers can use the longer-barreled rifles.

Some of the extra training has begun already.

"This is not arming our officers like Rambo," said Lovejoy Councilman Richard A. Fontana. "I think it makes our streets safer and makes our officers safer."

"We’re overpowered on the streets of Buffalo because of a lack of proper weapons," Fontana added. "This rifle gives the officers greater range and accuracy. We want them to have the proper tool to do their job."

"We support our men and women," added Niagara Councilman David A. Rivera, referring to Buffalo police officers. "We want to make sure they have adequate resources."

But the Council said they also want to make sure police are properly trained in de-escalating situations.

"Additional training must occur," said Council President Darius G. Pridgen.

Police agree the training is important, and have already started it, Rivera said.

Critics want more training, not more firepower, for city cops

Forty hours of Crisis Intervention Team Training has begun in two police districts and is being expanded citywide, Rivera said. This type of training covers officers remaining calm, managing their own responses, setting limits, handling challenging questions and trying to prevent a physical encounter.

These skills will be used in any situation where an officer feels someone will harm an officer, themselves or anyone else, Rivera added.

In addition to the sensitivity training, each officer will receive 16 hours of Blue Courage training – which covers topics such as healthy coping mechanisms for police, de-escalation techniques and techniques for making sure each encounter is fair.

The Council vote comes a day after about a dozen people came to a Council work session at City Hall, saying police needed more training, rather than more firepower.

Rivera said some of the residents made some good points regarding training, but that some of their information on the rifles being purchased was inaccurate.

"These are long rifles, not fully automatic," said Rivera, a retired city police officer. "It uses the same ammunition as their regular sidearms. The only difference is this weapon makes it more accurate."

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

Buffalo police will buy 115 Glock Magazine Quad Rail rifles to ensure that officers are adequately equipped in the event of an "active shooter" or terrorist incident. The rifles will be assigned to supervisors and certain other vehicles, police officials have said.

The protocol, with lieutenants and other supervisors carrying the rifles, will get the weapons to the scene more quickly than the current system, where a SWAT team – Special Weapons and Tactics unit – is called out.

The equipment will be purchased with a $282,600 state grant also being used to purchase 450 "active shooter" police vests.

The police union had wanted the department to purchase higher velocity AR-15 rifles for all patrol officers.

Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda rejected that request, in favor of the Quad Rail rifles.

Rifles are standard equipment in many police departments, including Erie County, Amherst, Orchard Park and Hamburg.

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