Police arsenal packs more shotguns
When officer Wayne Young arrives at the scene of a crime, the perpetrator needs real firepower to outgun him.
Young and other officers at the Park City Police Department recently were equipped with 12-gauge shotguns, a weapon the police say gives them a strategic and mental advantage. The sound and sight of pumping a shotgun, they say, are unmistakable and intimidating.
"I feel at least I have the tools to take on a situation," says Young, the firearms instructor for the Police Department and one of about half of the department’s officers who have qualified to carry a shotgun.
The shipment of the shotguns, manufactured by Remington, signals a shift in thinking by Police Department brass, who, under pressure from officers more than two years ago, agreed to better arm the force. The department previously had a few shotguns but the recent purchase significantly expands the police arsenal.
Semi-automatic rifles will follow the shotguns, providing officers with an armory that seemed unlikely until some members of the force challenged Police Chief Lloyd Evans and his long-held policy of keeping just a few of the bigger weapons in stock.
The Police Department spent about $9,360 for the 12 shotguns and accessories. The semi-automatic rifles, made by Colt, will cost about $14,400 with accessories. The Park City Council, responding to the rank-and-file officers, previously budgeted the money without controversy.
"They want to make sure they have the tools and (they) are excited about it," Young says, describing the officers’ anticipation of there being less of a chance they will be outgunned.
The guns, though, are seen as another symbol of Park City’s boom era, in which the city has grown quickly, becoming one of the hottest mountain destinations. In that time, it has attracted different types of criminals than before, including suspected gang members from California.
They also arrived at about the same time as the fatal shootings at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, reinforcing the authorities’ argument that random violence is not limited to the nation’s biggest cities.
"We would not have been as prepared as we are now. We are definitely better prepared to handle a situation like that," Young says about the Trolley Square shootings.
The department sought money for the guns in the aftermath of an unscientific survey and related comments from officers, made anonymously by some of the sworn members of the Police Department.
The survey, which was conducted by the local Fraternal Order of Police, an advocacy group, found that about the same number of officers said they were adequately equipped as said they were not. The question did not mention weapons but written comments from some of the officers showed they were concerned with the standard-issue guns.
The comments were explicit and the officers said they were worried their weapons were not adequate. One person wrote, "we have shotguns that we can’t use. We should be looking into shotguns or patrol rifles for every one." Others complained, "we have no shotguns," "shotguns would be nice in the cars" and "I don’t have a shotgun or any long gun."
Before the shipment, officers carried .40-caliber semi-automatic sidearms, manufactured by Glock, Park City’s standard weapon. The department owned six shotguns. They were kept locked in a cabinet at the Police Department and officers were required to check the guns out if they wanted to have on with them on their regular patrols.
"They felt they were outgunned, a concern we could be responding to situations the assailant had more and better firepower," says Evans, a career lawman with the Police Department.
Officers typically relied on backup from deputies from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, which, under Republican Dave Edmunds, reinforced its arsenal. Edmunds, who is a former Park City police officer, quickly armed all his patrol deputies with shotguns and either automatic or semiautomatic rifles. He says it is reckless for lawmen not to be armed in that manner.
"I promised my deputies they would never be outgunned. That’s very important to a peace officer," Edmunds says.
Park City police officers rarely draw their weapons and, to the chief’s recollection, only one officer has fired on a suspect in almost 30 years. That case occurred in 2002, when officer Nick Kingery fired three shots at a bank robber, missing him with each round. The police said at the time the suspect flashed a pistol-grip hose nozzle at Kingery as he fled. The department determined Kingery followed police policy when he fired.
More frequently, officers put down animals struck by cars.
Young, the firearms instructor, says officers must complete training before they are allowed to take a shotgun on patrol. The training, held at the Sheriff’s Office range at Silver Summit, takes between six and eight hours and includes drills in which the officers practice firing from different positions, like standing, kneeling and prone, and they learn to shoot from behind barricades. More than half of the full-time officers have completed the training, Young reports.
Evans says the department crafted rules for the officers to determine whether they should take out the bigger weapons. He says the officers operate under what he describes as "circumstances of immediacy," saying the weapons could be brought out during robberies or domestic-violence cases in which shots had been reported fired.
The officers have taken the shotguns out a couple times, the chief says, including during a traffic stop of a vehicle that was reported stolen and as officers were trying to apprehend a person wanted on a felony warrant.
"Walking through the bars on bar check would not fit that circumstance," Evans says.
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