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Sarah Field: Disappointed with City Council action on police weapons 


Sunday, March 18, 2018
Disappointed with council action on weapons fund

At the Northampton City Council meeting on March 15, community members packed the council chambers to express concerns about $75,000 earmarked to purchase “protective equipment and training” for the Northampton Police Department.

The specific items requested as part of the city’s capital improvement plan include protective helmets with face-shield visors, more commonly known as riot helmets; crowd control, Plexiglas shields, more commonly known as riot shields; tactical weaponry, special equipment and munitions and less-lethal options equipment and dispersal agents. “Less-lethal options” is police-speak for weapons such as pepper spray, tasers, and projectile weapons, like rubber bullet and beanbag launchers.

The Northampton Police Department has yet to release detailed information about the specific equipment being purchased, as well as the specific equipment that it already owns. Councilor Alisa Klein requested a continuation of the discussion on this funding allocation, sensibly stating that the council (and the taxpayers funding this expenditure) should have access to information about the specific equipment, especially given the community concern about bringing this weaponry into our community.

Shockingly, the majority of the council not only voted to pass the funding request, but even voted against the request for a continued discussion of this issue and transparency regarding Police Department expenditures.

I applaud Councilor Klein’s conscientious request for fiscal accountability and civilian oversight of the Police Department, and am concerned and disheartened that the majority of the council voted against even requesting information about the weapons the department has or is choosing to purchase with taxpayer money.

The people of Northampton deserve a council that is accountable to us, that will manage our finances responsibly, and that will seek and critically analyze information about our city departments, especially when these departments are purchasing weapons that have historically been used by the state against people from our own community.

Sarah Field

Northampton