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City lawmakers open to police union request for stronger firearms

Buffalo's police union and the city's police commissioner have different opinions about the union's proposal to provide patrol officers with higher-powered guns than their currently-issued pistols. City lawmakers, meanwhile, are not ready to commit one way or another.

Speaking at Tuesday's Common Council Police Oversight Committee meeting, lawmakers heard from both Police Benevolent Association first vice president John Evans, who renewed the union's call for more powerful guns, and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, who said he finds them unnecessary for patrol officers.

Councilmember David Franczyk, who is among the committee members, suggested the Council may not the most qualified to decide whether patrol officers should get assault rifles.

"The best thing we can so is decide who makes the best judgment to get this kind of firepower. If they think that we should get it, then we should get it. The union says we should get it, so I'm sure the department will study it and decide whether or not or where we need that," said Franczyk.

Franczyk warned that some past tactics have backfired, such as a former police commissioner putting an armored personnel vehicle outside a precinct house. That, Franczyk said, may have increased the lack of respect for police by criminal elements while portraying a less friendly neighborhood to nearby residents.

The committee's chairman, Councilman David Rivera, encouraged both sides to meet privately with lawmakers for further discussion.

"The criminals are watching us right now. They know what equipment [we have], what our plans are and certainly we don't want to share our intelligence with them. We definitely want to follow up on this," said Rivera.

The PBA estimates it would cost about $700,000 to arm 500 patrol officers with AR-15 rifles, or about $1,400 per officer. Commissioner Derenda told reporters his stance is not about money.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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