- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Conservation officers will be getting more assault rifles and shotguns for use in high-risk situations.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources board unanimously approved the $57,350 request Friday to purchase 20 semi-automatic rifles and half as many 12-gauge shotguns, Hawaii News Now reported (https://bit.ly/1lDQUbF).

Some voiced concerns about use and asked questions regarding the militarization of law enforcement.

Jason Redulla is the department’s acting conservation and resources enforcement chief. He said conservation officers, already equipped with a 40-caliber Glock issued by the government, are more like law enforcement officials than game wardens.

He told officials the request was for weapons that are already in the inventory, and that the purchase will expand access to rifles and shotguns for officers who often patrol remote areas alone.

Sierra Club of Hawaii director Marti Townsend said she sees conservation officers as mostly serving to protect natural resources. She said militarizing law enforcement can escalate conflicts, pointing to the arrests of people protesting the Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea.

“We saw heightened escalation on Mauna Kea, when there didn’t need to be,” she said. If every conservation officer has these weapons, “we’re going to have a new normal of heightened escalation, and that doesn’t serve anyone.”

Board members noted the importance of firearms training and the need to increase staff rather than weaponry. There are currently 8 vacant positions for Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers.


Information from: KGMB-TV, https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/

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