Northampton Police Department details six years of ammunition purchases

  • The Walmart on King Street in Northampton. The company had planned to donate $13,000 in ammunition to the Northampton Police Department in December, but withdrew its offer after some residents voiced opposition to the gift — and after the city council sent the matter to a committee for review. The council’s action was criticized by Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jody Kasper

  • David Narkewicz

  • Alisa Klein

Staff Writer
Published: 1/14/2019 10:49:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON – To the best of its knowledge, the Northampton Police Department spent $74,339.30 on ammunition from the summer of 2012 to the present.

This is according to data the department supplied to the Gazette, detailing 18 purchases of training, duty and unspecified ammunition ranging from $152 to $14,910.

The issue of police ammunition came to the forefront last month when Walmart attempted to donate ammunition valued at $13,000 to the department. This donation required approval by the Northampton City Council, which on Dec. 20 decided to send the matter to committee for consideration, after a public comment period in which a number of people urged its rejection. Walmart subsequently withdrew the donation, and the council has come in for heavy criticism from some quarters because of it, including from Mayor David Narkewicz.

“The police department was being held to a double standard,” the mayor said Monday.

The donation consisted of ammunition the police uses for training and ammunition it does not. The department’s original plan was to use the usable part of the donation, and turn the unused portion of ammunition over to the State Police for destruction.

Ward 7 City Councilor Alisa Klein sponsored the motion to refer the donation to committee, and prior to the meeting she had asked the mayor for details on the department’s last five years of ammunition purchases, as well as the po lice’s  current inventory of ammunition.

In response to this request, the  mayor invoked the city’s charter and said that the request would have to come from a vote of the whole council, giving as reasons the amount of time he said it would take and because he felt that the request fed into a “broader anti-police narrative.”

“I felt that it was a pretty sweeping request,” Narkewicz said Monday.

He also said that he’d been willing to provide information to the council between first and second readings of the donation.

“Would the council not want to accept this as a gift from Walmart?” said the mayor. “That was the issue to me before the council.”

Attempts to reach Klein for comment Monday were unsuccessful.

Although the department provided information to the Gazette on its ammunition purchases over a period of time that exceeded what Klein had requested, the department did decline to share the details of its inventory.

Police Chief Jody Kasper said that ammunition is purchased by the department as needed, and is not included as a line item on its annual budget. Money for the purchases shared with the Gazette came out of either the police supply budget or tactical budget.

Kasper had to give a caveat to the figures provided because the companies from which the department buys lethal ammunition also sell the department other items.

“We had to call the company to figure out what those purchases were,” she said.

According to the provided figures, the department has purchased 265 cases of training pistol ammunition since the summer of 2012, 25 cases of training rifle ammunition, 105 cases of duty pistol ammunition, four cases of patrol rifle ammunition and 33 cases of unspecified ammunition. There is also a June 9, 2014, purchase that does not have any numbers of ammunition attached to it.

The usable portion of the Walmart donation, in terms of ammunition released, was two cases of .40 caliber, which is used in police sidearms and would have been used as pistol training ammunition; seven cases of .22 long rifle, which is used as training rife ammunition; and 80 cases of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition and one case of .38 special, both of which are used for the qualification of the department’s firearms instructors.

“All we would have done is taken this ammunition, put it in with our supply,” said Kasper.

Kasper said that a one-to-one comparision can’t be made between the donation and the department’s purchases, because she didn’t know how the round count in the donated cases would stack up with what the department buys.

The department also buys its ammunition wholesale, and the $13,000 valuation of the donation estimated by Walmart was based on its retail value.

Kasper said police are required to train twice a year with their ammunition, once in the spring and once in the fall, giving a “a major estimate” of 14,800 rounds minimum discharged by the department in its fall training. Police must qualify with their weapons using duty, not training, ammunition.

Firearms instructors have additional training they have to do for certification, which she said amounts to thousands of rounds per officer. Instructors have to re-certify every three years.

“It’s all our ammunition,” Kasper said.

Additionally, each officer is allocated a box of pistol ammunition a month to train with.

Although ammunition often comes out of the department’s tactical budget, Kasper said that it has not directly influenced it to increase.

“I’ve never had to ask for more because of changes in ammunition,” she said.

In the years provided by the department for ammo purchases, ammunition costs never exceeded $20,000 a year, with many years involving less than $10,000 in ammunition purchases.

Kasper also said a higher bullet count for trainings is set to be required by the commonwealth. She also said that the department tries to be economical with its ammunition purchases.

“We’re thrifty,” Kasper said.

As for when the department will be buying ammunition again, Kasper said, “We will be making a purchase soon.”

Asked Monday what the company had done with the ammunition it tried to donate, officials at the Walmart on North King Street referred the Gazette to Walmart’s media relations office. A message seeking comment was not returned by press time.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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