Germantown delays AR-15s

Board wants cops to train before they get assault weapons

GERMANTOWN—The Town Board voted 4-1 Monday to refine its approval of the purchase of two AR-15 rifles for the Police Department. On a motion by Councilman Joel Craig, deployment of the rifles will be withheld until the police officers are completely trained and certified in their use and the town’s policy manual updated as necessary.

Councilman Donald Westmore said he would prefer that the purchase of the rifles be suspended until he had more information about the weapons, their use and the training. The rifles had been ordered, however, after the board approved their purchase at the April 22 meeting. Mr. Westmore’s vote was the only one against Mr. Craig’s motion.

Prior to the vote, the board heard from Hudson Police Department officer Randy Clark, at the request of Germantown Police Chief Brian Dubois. Officer Clark said he has been on the police force for 18 years and most of what he does now is firearms training. In the last 15 years, he said, police technology and “our climate” have changed, outdating previous tactics. One officer is now asked to do what four did in the past, he said.

“Instead of radioing for help, a single officer goes into [a dangerous situation] and risks his life?” asked Mr. Craig.

“The first officer on the scene can start to mitigate the situation instead of waiting to be saved,” said police commissioner Roger Rekow from the audience.

The AR-15 has been in use for 35 years, said Officer Clark. It is available and affordable. It is semiautomatic, requiring the officer wielding it to “make a conscious decision to pull the trigger every time.” The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) classifies the AR-15 as an assault rifle. But “any weapon in law enforcement is a defensive weapon,” he said.

Most law enforcement agencies are “transitioning away” from the shotgun, a medium-range weapon, to the AR-15, which can be used with greater accuracy at a longer range, said Officer Clark. Further, law enforcement is “getting on board” with shared weapon systems, for more efficient training and use.

To be certified on the AR-15, said Officer Clark, a police officer has four to six hours of class training and then “range time” with the rifle. “I can take almost anyone and train him or her competently in less than eight hours,” he said.

Mr. Westmore also expressed surprise that SWAT teams are now superseded by an individual officer.

“There is a rationale behind that,” said Officer Clark, but he could not describe all police protocol in public.

An audience of about 30 heard the discussion. In public comment at the end of the meeting, Kay Abraham, Corinne Curry, Alice Montague and Richard Montague continued to object to the purchase. Andrea Dunn of the town’s Park Commission, the mother of a school-age child, said that she had been a medic for eight and a half years and carried an M-16 rifle the whole time. The M-16 is the military equivalent of the AR-15. “I challenge everyone to do the research on the weapon itself,” she said. “The accuracy is better. This is the weapon you want.

“I want them to have the tools they need to protect my community,” she said.

In other business the board:

—Agreed to a lease-to-own purchase of a Caterpillar backhoe loader with an 8-foot broom for the Highway Department for about $107,000. The current, 23-year-old backhoe, which is leaking antifreeze after years of service, is still worth $6,500 on a trade-in.

—Approved $3,600 for a two-sided “welcome to Germantown” sign for installation on Route 9G at Palatine Park Road.

—Approved $1,000 for replacement of trees lost at the waterfront during the last two large storms. The Columbia County Soil & Water Conservation District will provide an additional $1,500. Mature trees can be purchased for $450. Pin oaks and red oaks are native to the area and would work well near the river. They would be set back from the water, once the new backhoe has arrived.

—Heard Economic Development Committee Co-chair Corinne Curry read a letter requesting that the Town Board approve the extension of the hamlet mixed-use designation from its current meet point, at the intersection of Church Avenue and Main Street, east on Main Street to Hover Avenue, an area currently designated hamlet residential. The board voiced no objection. The change requires a new town law, after a public hearing, to amend the zoning law.

—Learned from Ms. Dunn and Brittany DuFresne of the Park Commission that a July 20 Community Picnic is planned. Ms. Dunn is mapping out a 5K run in the town. The Little League will host a softball tournament. The picnic will start at 3 p.m. with games for children and live music until dark. Beer sales are possible. The goal is to have residents learn more about what is available in town. “There are a lot of things going on that we want people to get involved with,” said Ms. Dunn. The Park Commission welcomes new members. .

—Learned that vacancies remain on the Planning Board (one) and Ethics Board (three).

—Reminded the public of the following dates: May 27, Memorial Day parade meets at town hall at 9 a.m., steps off at 10 a.m.; May 28 property tax Grievance Day, 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. in Town Hall; Sidewalk Committee meeting, June 15 at 10 a.m. in the Kellner Activities Building, Palatine Park Road; September 21, Apple Festival.

The next town board meeting is Monday, June 17, at 7 p.m.

 

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