Are military style weapons a necessity for on-duty police officers? That question went in front of the Buffalo Common Council during the Police Oversight Committee meeting on Tuesday.
John Evans, the first Vice President for the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, said that the weapons would be important for protecting the public and officers in the event of a terrorist attack or mass shooter.
"We'd like to see the patrol officers have something to combat that threat," Evans explained. One purpose would be, "to engage a longer term or a longer range enemy, so to speak."
Evans said that police officers have come to the union, worried about safety. He added, that other suburban departments have the type of weapon being requested.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said that the department has started looking into the union's request.
However, at this point, "we are covered with our current strategy and our current operational plans," Derenda said. "I just don't think it's necessary."
Derenda said that officer safety is a top priority, and that in case of an attack, plans have been made in addition to the department's SWAT team and other assets.
Buffalo Common Council members who spoke to 7 Eyewitness News said that they still have not made up their minds.
Council Member Ulysses Wingo said that the PBA have asked for the high powered guns to be voluntary for officers.
"Either it's needed or it's not needed," Wingo said. "Voluntary basis to me screams if I want a bigger toy, I can have a bigger toy."
Council President Darius Pridgen added that a lot of discussions need to take place.
"I don't know what's on the streets or what the police are dealing with at all," Pridgen said. "So I want to make sure that we are providing ... that it's about strategy."
"We constantly have to upgrade our equipment," added Council Member David Franczyk. "We want our officers to be properly equipped so they can protect themselves and the people of the city."
Evans said that the request would be able to provide the weapons to all of the approximately 500 patrol officers in the Buffalo Police Department.
The assault rifles would be costly. However, Derenda insisted that budgetary issues had nothing to do with his current objection to the weapon.
Common Council Member David Rivera, said that police and the council will continue to discuss the issue. Some of those discussions will have to take place behind closed doors, as the Buffalo Police Department cannot publicly disclose its current plans to confront terrorists or mass shooters.