Police stocking up on ‘non-lethal’ rifles before DNC

    The Denver Police Department has bought high-powered pepper ball rifles just in time for the Democratic National Convention in August, according to a weapons firm that will provide the guns.

    Security With Advanced Technology, a company based in Louisville, Colo., and self-billed as investing in the manufacturing of “non-lethal solutions,” announced this week that it had sold Denver police 88 Mark IV rifle models, guns that can fire up to 15 pepper balls filled with a super irritant powder at an approximate target range of 100 meters.

    Along with shooting pepper irritant, the MK-IV can also shoot “glass breaking” projectiles and high-impact rounds made of rubber, according to the company. The ammo will come in .60-caliber plastic balls, about the size of the average paint ball.

    “MK-IV has knockdown power to spare,” boasts a product description by Security With Advanced Technology, “but our projectile technology maintains a truly less-lethal weapons system.”

    The cost of the rifles is "in the low six figures," according to a statement released by the company that makes them.

    Information about the rifle purchases was publicly disclosed by the weapons manufacturer but not by law enforcement officials, who have been reluctant to reveal what is being bought with some $50 million in federal funds for convention security.

    In April the Colorado Independent reported that the Denver Police Department refused to disclose what weapons the city was purchasing in preparation for the convention. At the time department officials maintained that such information was not in the “public interest.” 

    In a separate action, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking to obtain the weapons purchases information, challenging Denver’s contention that such a disclosure is not in the public interest.

    Such secrecy is in contrast to police in St. Paul, Minn., who have made public plans to purchase 230 Tasers to arrive before the Republican National Convention in September.

    As previously reported, not knowing what Denver police have in their plans for has stirred much speculation  among activists who want to demonstrate at the Democratic convention:

    Mark Cohen, a member of the organizing committee for the Recreate 68 Alliance, a coalition of groups that plan to demonstrate at the Democratic convention, released a statement saying that the group is very concerned about so-called "crowd control" and "less than lethal" weapons and equipment the police department may be purchasing in anticipation of protests, including Tasers and other sonic weapons that can be used to disperse crowds.

    "Contrary to [the police department’s] statement, it is very much in the public interest for the people of Denver to know whether the Denver Police Department — which should be subject to civilian oversight in such matters — is planning to purchase such equipment with public funds for use on peaceful protesters," said Cohen.

    The Denver mayor’s office has maintained that, "to describe the details of [weapons purchases] in advance poses an obvious risk that we’re not going subject our community to, nor are we required to do so."

    Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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