By JUSTIN TONEY
The University Police Department recently aquired three M4 semi-automatic rifles.
Mary Washington is now the second university in Virginia to own patrol rifles, second to Virginia Tech, and the only Virginia university to have accessory medical supplies and armor as well.
According to Police Chief James Snipes, the decison to acquire rifles is provisional necessity for campus security.
“It’s been due to incidents that have occured nation-wide for 10 years,” Snipes said.
Snipes, who used rifles in his previous non-campus department added that the transition from shotguns to rifles is a common police decision. The look of the patrol rifle is more agressive than a shotgun, but from a tactical law enforcement perspective, “it’s an advantage in this time in the United States,” Snipes said.
The Fredericksburg Police Department previously upgraded to the M4s. Snipes cited this as further incentive for UMW to aquire the rifles.
Acting President Rick Hurley echoed Snipes’ sentiment about the need to have an arsonal compatible to nearby police agencies.
“The rationale for their acquisition made sense to me, i.e. our weapons inventory should be compatible with our supporting police department, Fredericksburg, and that this rifle has become the standard among police departments across the country,” Hurley said in an e-mail.
Snipes said that the first thing he did after becoming Chief of Police in 2000 was to ask the University for funding to purchase the rifles.
His budget requests were denied each year.
Hurley, who is responsible for the review of the Dept. budget as Vice President of Administration and Finance, said the decision to deny the request was strictly a financial one.
“Lack of funds has been the reason,” Hurley said. “In this case, no new funds had to be allocated because of the trade-in value of the older shotguns.”
Hurley does not object to Snipes’ request for a fourth M4.
“I pray that we never have a day where any type of gun has to be fired on this campus,” Hurley said.
Though Snipes also hopes the rifles will never need to be used he insists on their importance.
“When the time comes when you need it, you need it. No other piece of equipment will do,” he said.
A few weeks ago, Snipes asked Sgt. Joseph “Skip” Samuels to look for an opportunity to purchase patrol rifles.
Samuels worked with local business Combat Solutions to negotiate a deal whereby the UMW police sold their 4 shotguns for a discount on the already reduced price of three M4 rifles.
Combat Solutions also donated expensive medical equipment called “Quik Clot,” used by medics in the Iraq conflict.
Associate Vice President of Safety and Community Services Susan Knick orchestrated a further purchase of tactical armor.
Each $700 vest is capable of stopping a rifle round.
After trade-in, the weapons and necessary accessories cost the Dept. $975.
The guns come with carying cases and multiple magazines. Unlike the millitary-issue models, the campus M4s can not perform burst nor automatic fire.
Snipes and Samuels listed the particular advantages to having rifles over shotguns.
A rifle has greater range, power, and control, according to Snipes.
Samuels said that the Dept. plans to purchase frangible amunition for added safety. These expensive balistics are designed to pierce flesh, but shatter upon contact with denser materials.
All 16 of the Dept. officers must be certified to use the weapons before they can be stored in the UMW patrol car where they will be used only in case of emergency.
As of this week, Joe Gagliardi is the only officer certified to use the rifles.