Bryon Eagon and Paul Skidmore both see the logic in a proposed new program to let Madison police officers buy their own AR-15 assault rifles for on-the-job use. There's a current shortage of these weapons, which should be scoped for each officer's use.
But the Madison alders, who serve on the city's Public Safety Review Committee, have some concerns. For instance, asks Eagon, "What happens to a rifle at the end of a shift? Do they put it in their trunk and take it home?"
The answer is: Sure, if they want, says Madison Police Capt. Vic Wahl. That's how it works with officers' Glock handguns, which they own; these can even be carried off-duty. Wahl reports few if any problems, but doubts many officers will be toting home their AR-15s.
A resolution, introduced by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, would establish a voluntary AR-15 purchase program for Madison cops. The MPD would use its collective purchasing power to buy the rifles, at about $1,000 a pop, and sell these at cost to officers through 52 biweekly payroll deductions.
Skidmore worries about liability, for accidental injury or deliberate misuse, especially if officers have not yet paid the full purchase price: "Is this a private piece of equipment or public equipment?"
Wahl, a lawyer by training, thinks the officers would in most instances be liable as the owners, even if the payments were still being made.
On Tuesday, the Public Safety Review Committee unanimously passed the resolution, after voting down an amendment by Skidmore to require officers to leave their assault rifles at work. The issue will likely come before the full council next month.
Skidmore also questions making city employees buy the tools they need for their jobs. "If someone uses a computer all day," he asks, "should we ask them to buy their own computer? Should we allow streets workers to buy their own custom shovels?"
Of course, an assault rifle is a much niftier tool than a shovel. The mayor's resolution says 59 Madison cops are ready to buy, and 46 would consider the opportunity.