SKOWHEGAN — Selectmen this week gave police Chief David Bucknam the green light to seek bids on replacing the Police Department’s aging Vietnam-era weapons with new AR-15 rifles.

Bucknam said the 1960s-era rifles currently in use at the Skowhegan Police Department are on loan from the federal government and will be returned once the department has secured new ones. He said the upgrades to a new weapon system brings Skowhegan in line with most other police departments in Maine.

The plan is to purchase 15 new rifles — one for each patrol officer.

Skowhegan police Chief David Bucknam holds a Vietnam-era AR-15 rifle he wants to replace with new ones. Morning Sentinel photo by Doug Harlow

“Each officer will be assigned their own rifle as part of their duty equipment, and the training and qualification process will begin,” Bucknam said.

He said the Police Department decided to stay with the AR-15 instead of going to another style of rifle because the AR-15 is lightweight, easy to use and relatively inexpensive.

“Additionally, the men and women of the Police Department are already familiar with this type of weapon platform, so the transition to the new rifle will be quick and efficient,” he said. “The state of Maine has many manufacturers of the AR-15, and if the Skowhegan Police Department can support a Maine business, we would prefer to do so.”

Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said the purchase was discussed during the 2018 budget process and voters at Town Meeting approved spending from the town’s surplus funds if necessary. There also is $18,000 that can be used for the purchase in the “fire arms” section of the Police Department Reserve Account.

Bucknam said officers perform maintenance on the weapons currently in use and have converted them from fully-automatic to semi-automatic. The original AR-15 used in Vietnam was fully automatic, he said.

“There’s probably very few law enforcement agencies out there that do not have a rifle assigned to a patrol vehicle or the individual police officer,” he said. “We’re just trying to update our weaponry.”

Bucknam said the rifles are kept between the seats, locked and unloaded, in the police cruiser. When needed, the officer can unlock the gun and have it ready to be used if necessary.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

 

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.