'A sad reality:' SouthCoast police acquire greater firepower as mass shootings increase

  • In US
  • 2022-08-16 07:06:03Z
  • By The Standard-Times

NEW BEDFORD - Mass shootings have been increasing in the last 20 years and several area police forces said they have upgraded their armory as a result.

Indeed, according to The Marshall Project, the last five years have seen 31 mass shootings - the most in any five-year period since 1966, part of a steadily increasing trend.

In a survey of area police departments, several in Bristol County said they now possess semi-automatic weapons to be deployed in mass shooting scenarios.

"It's a sad reality," former Chatham Chief of Police Mark Pawlina told The Cape Cod Times in a recent story.

NBPD keeps AR-15s in cruisers

Among those contacted were the New Bedford, Acushnet, Dartmouth, Freetown, Lakeville, and Fairhaven police departments.

New Bedford police confirmed they carry the weapon in case of an active shooter incident.

"New Bedford police do carry AR-15s in their cruisers to use in case they respond to an active shooter situation where an assailant may be using a weapon of high volume," said Holly Huntoon, NBPD media relations specialist.

New Bedford police headquarters, Rockdale Avenue.
New Bedford police headquarters, Rockdale Avenue.  

The policy was enacted as a result of the December 2006 shooting at the Foxy Lady that resulted in the deaths of four men, three of whom worked at the club.

The incident began when 39-year-old Scott C. Medeiros of Freetown entered the establishment, where his then recent ex-girlfriend worked as a bartender, and began firing with an M-16.

Soon after police arrived on the scene, a firefight ensued before Medeiros shot and killed himself.

"Police are authorized to use this weapon in accordance with our use of force policy," Huntoon said.

The New Bedford Police Department's guidelines on use of force were last evaluated on July 13 and are available online.

The department's Use of Deadly Force Policy says that officers are to use deadly force as a last resort when other de-escalation options have been exhausted "when time and the totality of the circumstances permit."

The 13-page document goes on to elaborate further.

"Police are equipped with firearms as a means of last resort to protect themselves and others from the immediate threat of death and serious bodily injury," it states. "The basic responsibility of police officers to protect life also requires that they exhaust all other reasonable means for apprehension and control before resorting to the use of firearms."

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Acushnet PD has access to AR-15 style rifles

Acushnet Chief of Police Christopher Richmond said that police there do have access to a semi-automatic AR-15-style rifle called the Bushmaster XM15 E2S and the Anderson Manufacturing AM-15.

"The rifles are safely secured when not in use," Richmond said.

"The Acushnet Police Department began training and qualifying with patrol rifles about 20 years ago," he added, "in response to a number of incidents across the nation where police officers were unfortunately ill prepared and confronted by suspects with superior firepower."

Though he declined to go into specifics, Richmond summarized the policies surrounding their usage in one sentence.

"Simply put, officers are authorized to use the weapons when the situation dictates it."

Chief Carlton Abbott of the Freetown Police Department did not provide details in his response. "Any records detailing the quantity, specifications and location of police weapons would undermine public safety as it relates to security measures and emergency preparedness," he said.

The Lakeville, Dartmouth, and Fairhaven Police Departments did not respond to requests for comment.

Originally intended for military use, the AR-15 style rifle can fire one bullet per trigger pull, making it semi-automatic. It has been among the guns used in several recent mass shootings across the United States including May 14 in Buffalo, New York, where a gunman killed 10 Black shoppers at a supermarket, and May 24, in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school.

With Cape Cod Times reports by Asad Jung. 

Contact Kevin G. Andrade at kandrade@s-t.com and follow him on Twitter: @KevinGAndrade. Support local journalism and subscribe to the Standard-Times today!

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: SouthCoast police acquire more firepower as mass shootings increase


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