Miss. police return military surplus weapons, order body cameras

By WILLIAM MOORE | Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo | Published: December 2, 2015

TUPELO, Miss. (Tribune News Service) — The Tupelo Police Department will return a cache of assault rifles and shotguns owned by the federal government.

The weapons – 22 M16 rifles, 10 M14 rifles and six 12 gauge shotguns – will be transferred to the Department of Defense Depot in Anniston, Alabama, as well as other law enforcement agencies in Michigan, Texas and North Carolina.

The guns were loaned to Tupelo through the Mississippi Office of Surplus Property, which pairs military surplus with law enforcement agencies. At TPD, the weapons were used by patrolmen, the honor guard and the SWAT team.

“A lot of the weapons are fully automatic and don’t meet our needs,” said Tupelo Assistant Police Chief Allan Gilbert. “Dealing with surplus, you cannot modify or manipulate the weapon to fit your need.

“If we needed a shorter barrel, a different stock or shorter rails, you couldn’t do that. The goal of the PD was always to own our own weapons. These served their purpose, but we now have newer weapons that are designed to meet the needs of the different divisions.”

The surplus weapons are also old. Most are from the Vietnam War era and one came in original packaging dated 1971, Gilbert said.

Body cameras

In a separate action, the Tupelo City Council approved the purchase of 75 body cameras at a total cost of around $60,000.

The body cameras have been on Police Chief Bart Aguirre’s wish list for more than a year. The department field tested two different models earlier this year before deciding to order from Watch Guard, the same system used for the in-car cameras.

The cameras will be used by patrolmen, as well as motorcycle officers and K-9 handlers.

“When an officer goes to the patrol car, the body camera will automatically pair up with the in-car system,” Aguirre said. “That will allow you to play back both videos at the same time.”

Both cameras will start recording when the blue lights are activated, but they can also be turned on manually.

Recent civil unrest and riots around the country after officer-involved shootings have prompted many departments to look into body cameras. But the videos are most often used in lower courts as additional evidence. That could be anything from a traffic stop to a domestic disturbance.

Aguirre has already started looking at the policy and procedures of other agencies to determine who can request copies of videos and how the videos should be disseminated.


©2015 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.)
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