By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Police Department intends to equip all its officers with Colt M4 Law Enforcement Carbines, which will be mounted between the seats of cruisers while on patrol.
The department has been awarded a federal grant of $15,714 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance for the purchase 15 of the semi-automatic, .223 caliber rifles, along with slings,magazines and other accessories.
Capt. Matt Canfield said that ultimately each officer will be assigned a rifle, explaining that since the rifles are sighted to particular individuals they cannot be shared among officers. He said that officers will undergo eight hours of training in the operation and maintenance of the rifles, together with a written test. Moreover, to qualify to carry the rifle officers must demonstrate their proficiency on the firing range each year. "We train with the rifles three or four times a year," Canfield said.
Canfield said that rifles are intended for use in the event of an active shooter situation or when police are confronted with a shooter similarly armed. He said that the range and accuracy of the rifle are both much greater than that of the handguns carried by police. At the same time, the ammunition fired by the rifle has the capability of penetrating body armor.
The rifles will be secured at the station, assigned to the officers when they take their shifts and returned to the station at the end of their shifts. The rifles are stowed vertically in a locked mount between the front seats of the cruisers. Canfield said that in the past rifles were kept in cases in the trunk, which hindered officers from deploying them in a timely manner.
In addition to the Colt M4 rifles, officers also carry Remington 12 gauge shotguns, which fire non-lethal plastic projectiles that inflict sharp pain without causing puncture wounds. The shotguns are accurate to ranges between 20 and 30 feet. He said that protocol prescribes that officers fire at large muscle groups below the waist to minimize the risk of serious injury.
Canfield could not precisely recall the last time a Laconia Police Officer fired a shot while on duty, but did note "we deal with guns quite regularly."
The City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the acceptance of the grant to purchase the rifles during its meeting on Monday, Aug. 8.
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