BEDMINSTER — The police department is getting new tactical rifles following Bedminster Township Board of Supervisors Feb. 12 approval of the $12,124 purchase.

The semi-automatic rifles being purchased from Geissele Automatics are being bought under the state purchasing costars program, Township Manager Rich Schilling said.

Including the rifle, sights, lights, mounts and four magazines per rifle, the price for each is $1,732, he said. 

The department will be trading in its current rifles, but the amount that will be received isn't yet set, he said. It's expected to be about $2,300, he said. 

"This is something the police need in different situations. Bedminster's peaceful normally, but sometimes this is needed for defending the police officers basically," board Chairman Glenn Wismer said. 

"We hope they never use them," board member Mark Schmidt said.  

The tactical rifles are needed in situations such as stand-offs with a barricaded person, Schilling said.

"The last thing you want to do is be showing up and be outgunned by somebody who's sitting up in the house, up on the second floor looking down at you," he said.

The rifles are kept locked in department vehicles, Officer in Charge Nicholas Virnelson said. It's hard to say exactly how long the new rifles will remain in use for the department, but it will probably be about 20 years, he said.

The officers will have training with the new rifles, but only because the training must be done with the firearm they will actually be using, he said.

"It's the same training course as with the other rifles," Virnelson said.

The department's handguns have lights and fiber optic sights, which can be used at night, he said. That's led to officers sometimes choosing to use their handgun rather than the current rifles, he said. 

"One of our needs for these rifles is that our current ones are not set up to have optics put on them and most of them do not have lights," Virnelson said. "Not having optics or lights on a rifle puts us in a very dangerous situation."

In situations such as a stand-off, neighboring departments assist the municipality in which the incident is happening, so the new rifles will be used both in Bedminster and other towns, he said.

In a separate matter at the meeting, Schilling said closing is scheduled for Feb. 21 on conservation easements for two properties with a combined almost 140 acres. Agreements of sale were approved at the board's September 2019 meeting. The properties are a 62.43-acre Edge Hill Road tract and a 77.36-acre Kellers Church Road property. 

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