The police department is asking city council to forgo the formal bidding process in order to purchase 270 Colt patrol rifles. However, the informal process will still lead to competitive bidding, says a Fresno police official.
The department says an increase in attacks on officers and armed attacks with multiple victims has created urgency. “I’ve never seen this level of violence towards officers,” Deputy Chief Robert Nevarez tells GV Wire.
In a report Nevarez filed in conjunction with the request to council, he cites a rash of sensational attacks that have taken place around the country in places like Dallas, Ohio State and San Bernardino.
On December 2, 2015, two suspected terrorist killed 14 people at an office party in San Bernardino. On July 7, 2016 a sniper unleashed an ambush-style attack, killing five police officers in Dallas. Another suspected terrorist injured 13 in a car and stabbing attack at Ohio University in Columbus on November 28. All the suspects were eventually killed by police.
More Colt patrol rifles would help prepare police to handle such incidents such as active shooters, according to Nevarez.
“With that level of violence, the time to deploy a team is gone. Law enforcement needs to assemble a team in minutes,” Nevarez said. He cited that many times, the responsibility to thwart an attack falls on an individual patrol officer, such as the Ohio State stabbings.
Nevarez also cites the shooting of two correctional deputies at the Fresno County Jail on September 3, 2016 as a case where those in uniform can be targeted. While there have been no terrorist motivated type attacks in recent memory in Fresno, a student at UC Merced injured four people with a hunting knife on November 4, 2015, before eventually being killed by police. Federal investigators believe Faisal Mohammad was inspired by ISIS and other groups.
Fresno PD budgets the cost of the 270 rifles at $325,000, or about $1203 per rifle. Nevarez says that 190 such rifles are currently deployed by the department, but are mainly used by specialized units such as SWAT or the Special Response Team. A recent assessment shows that only five of those rifles are available at a given time, not enough if a mass casualty incident happened in the city. His goal is to equip every officer with the necessary firepower.
Familiarity is why the department prefers the Colt brand. Nevarez says that is what the department currently uses the Colt 6920 semi-automatic. “We want to be consistent in the way we train,” he explained.
In filed documents, the patrol rifle “has a significant ballistic and tactical advantage when compared to the department-issued pistol. The goal of this purchase is to acquire sufficient patrol rifles to provide one to every uniformed police officer. By assigning rifles to individual officers, they have the ability to adjust the sights specifically to their needs. This will reduce liability and increase officer safety by having a rifle available at each incident, preventing the suspect from continuing lethal activity.”
In order to bypass the competitive bidding process, five of the seven council members would need to agree to pass the item (1-L on Thursday’s consent calendar agenda). Interestingly, the department is asking council to approve $1.8 million for the purchase of 60 police vehicles ($30,298 each). There, a formal bidding process did take place. Swanson Fahrney Ford of Selma was the lone bidder.
Nevarez says that they are asking for an informal bidding process as opposed to the formal process. He says that can mean the difference between months and weeks. He still says the process will be competitive and transparent- no sweetheart deals here.
“Whoever bids the lowest price, that’s who we are going to go with,” Nevarez said. He believes the process will foster competition and garner the lowest price and maybe even under budget. Potential sellers will submit their bid on a website.
[This story has been updated to include Fresno Police quotes and explain the type of bidding process they intend to use]