Houlton police are getting $16K in new guns

HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton Police Department is getting new guns.

The department has ordered $15,815 worth of pistols and holsters for 14 officers to replace their 15-year-old weapons. The department says it keeps its arms in working order but the modern weapons will be an improvement and help officers better see their targets.

The Maine attorney general’s office investigates all police shooting incidents. In the last three years it has investigated 27 cases in the state, according to its archives. The Houlton department is like most in Maine and officers rarely discharge a weapon in the line of duty, Houlton Police Chief Tim DeLuca said, but reliability is vital.

“It is my job to protect the officer and community by providing an upgraded, reliable tool. All responsible agencies take a look at all their gear continuously to ensure safety and reliability,” DeLuca said. “In the unfortunate situation an HPD officer is faced with a critical situation where the use of deadly force is needed, we want the best option to safeguard everyone.”

The department’s Smith & Wesson handguns are 15 years old, which is old for a police weapon, the chief said. Several months ago the department began studying weapons, with the approval of the town manager and the town council, to determine the best fit for the department.

Since fall, three manufacturers — Smith & Wesson, Glock and Sig Sauer — came to Houlton with various options for the officers to test at the firing range.

“We looked at rifles, hand pistols, lighting, optics and the best holster to use,” DeLuca said.

The new pistols will include lights to illuminate targets. This not only improves safety and accuracy but helps officers confirm potential threats, DeLuca said. They are also optics ready, which means the department can buy sighting accessories that pinpoint targets with a laser red or green dot, DeLuca said.

The chief did not specify what brand the department bought.

The new officer holsters, made by Safariland, are called triple retention holsters. An officer must operate three mechanisms to release a weapon, including an automatic lock and a self-lock. The system makes it difficult for an average person to remove an officer’s firearm during an arrest or when an officer is close to a suspect, the chief said.

In 2018, a woman being treated in a Bangor emergency room allegedly tried to grab a weapon from a police officer who was helping her.

With advanced training, officers will learn to remove their pistols quickly, DeLuca said.

The firearms should arrive in April, but training includes shooting several hundred rounds of ammunition.

Once the officer is proficient, the qualifying process will begin. That will involve training scenarios, simulated threats, use under stressful situations, night use and night use with police blue lights, which could change the appearance of the lighting.

The funds came from the police department’s 2022 budget. The department will purchase optics later, as well as rifles to replace their 50- and 60-year-old government surplus models.