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Oklahoma City (Free Press) — With a shorter than usual agenda and Mayor Holt not present, the City Council for Oklahoma City approved public art spending and the purchase of military-style weapons for the Oklahoma City Police Department.

The number of those weapons is still undecided.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

Police rifles

One item posted on the agenda’s consent docket was pulled out for discussion by Ward 6 Councilor JoBeth Hamon.

The item in question was to first approve a pricing agreement with two companies for semi-auto AR-15 rifles (similar to ones used by the military) and parts at an estimated cost of $200,000 between December 7, 2021 and December 6, 2022. The second part of the item was to authorize the open market purchase of related items not available on a pricing agreement, with an estimated cost of $25,000.

Hamon explained that she had asked questions of Chief of Police Wade Gourley via email, and his answers were not adequate. Specifically, Hamon said, when asked how many of these rifles are deployed, Gourley’s answer was that the utilization and deployment of these rifles is not tracked.

police chief
Oklahoma City Chief of Police Wade Gourley. (Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press)

Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice also said that she was uncomfortable voting in favor of allowing the department to buy an undetermined number of new rifles when their inventory system would seem so lacking.

City Manager Craig Freeman said that the guns are tracked, and summoned Gourley to report. Gourley explained that the Department has 480 of these rifles. Nearly 400 are currently assigned to officers.

Gourley went on to add that many of the rifles are around 15 years old, an age that Gourley claims is the service life of one of these rifles.

A simple Google search reveals that a regularly maintained AR-15 taken to a range once a month and firing 100 rounds should last 16 years before the barrel begins to wear out.

Other experts suggest that a properly maintained AR-15 would last practically forever.

However, the OKCPD declares that they need more in order to protect themselves and the public. 

A sample image of an AR-15 which is the semi-auto version of the full-auto-capable military version. The ammo and ballistics are the same.

Gourley told the story of an officer patrolling on MLK who was rammed by an SUV and then received fire from a passenger of the car. According to Gourley, the officer couldn’t reach his sidearm but was able to deploy his rifle to defend himself.

Gourley also claimed that after the 2016 incident of five Dallas police officers being shot by a similar rifle, those officers were unable to defend themselves against a shooter with a rifle.

Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper asked Gourley about deployment of “less-lethal” tools, and de-escalation, making reference to a recent situation-based training exercise some Council members were invited to attend.

Two members of the Council, Hamon and Nice, were not invited to that event.

Gourley described the training and “less lethal” weapons as an opportunity to de-escalate situations by having distance between the officers and the person they are encountering.

The Council voted 6-2 to approve the pricing agreement. Cooper and Hamon voted no.

Public Art

Robbie Kienzle, the Program Planner at the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs at Oklahoma City, brought two items of public art displays for the Council’s consideration.

The first of the two pieces is an outdoor mural at the Norick Library in Downtown Oklahoma City. 

The artists, Angie LaPaglia and Kiona Millirons will be installing their piece “Come Together,” a heat-applied decal mural on the ground outside of the downtown branch of the Metropolitan Library System.

The artists and the City will perform monthly inspections on the piece to make sure it isn’t being worn down or dangerous or unsightly after exposure to elements. The piece is intended to be in place for a year.

The second item Kienzle brought was to accept and display an art piece on loan to the City.

Local artist Wayne Coyne collaborated with internationally recognized artist Damien Hirst on a very large work. Coyne has offered to loan it to Oklahoma City for display at the new convention center.

If the piece is installed by Coyne’s birthday in January, Hirst may come to Oklahoma City to help unveil the exhibition.

The City Council meets for the final time this year on December 21 at 8:30 a.m.

Disclosure: Marty Peercy is the husband of Oklahoma City Council member JoBeth Hamon.

Last Updated January 13, 2022, 3:54 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor