- Associated Press - Thursday, July 10, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The Albuquerque Police Department plans to buy at least 350 military-style rifles as replacements for officer-owned weapons.

A request for bids called for the purchase of 350 AR-15 rifles in a two-year contract’s first year, followed by more purchases as necessary, KOB-TV (https://bit.ly/1sBWqt1) reported Wednesday night.

Police Chief Gorden Eden told officers in May that they could no longer carry personally-owned weapons in the field.

Eden took that action after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report on Albuquerque police and use of force. The report noted, among other things, that officers purchased expensive weapons and viewed them as “status symbols.”

In a statement, the department said it is standardizing weapons used by officers and that the new rifles would be issued to officers trained to use them. The rifles would be the type used commonly by police departments throughout the United States, the statement said.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, said the planned purchase “sends a contradictory message to the public” regarding reforms recommended by the Department of Justice on use of force.

“You’re asking for trouble, in my opinion,” he said.

Police officers union President Stephanie Lopez said officers need weapons such as AR-15s. She cited an October shooting rampage by a man who fired an assault rifle while dressed in body armor.

“There is a need to have these weapons on the street and within the department,” she said.

Officers were able to stop the gunman by using weapons similar to AR-15s. Standard-issue handguns and shotguns weren’t enough to disable the vehicle the gunman was using, she said.

Lopez said officers rightfully requested the department to purchases rifles after they were told to leave their own at home.

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Information from: KOB-TV, https://www.kob.com

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