Miami Police Want to Spend $100,000 on AR-15-Style Rifles

In Miami-Dade County, cities can't spend money on public transportation, affordable housing, or sea-level-rise preparedness without residents stomping their feet and flooding commission meetings to protest.

But ask for six figures' worth of controversial, military-grade police equipment, and South Florida cities will pretty much just hand you a blank check. After City of Miami Police used the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando to rush-order $300,000 worth of military-grade armor last month, that same police department now says it needs to spend $101,332.64 on 148 AR-15-style Bushmaster rifles, 148 rifle scopes, and other supplies.

The City of Miami Commission is poised to approve the request when it returns from its summer recess September 8.

Police departments across South Florida have requested equipment upgrades following the Pulse shooting June 12, when 49 people were killed by an active shooter wielding a Sig Sauer MCX rifle. Just a little more than two weeks later, on June 29, City of Miami Police sent out a request for 148 new Bushmaster XM15 QRC rifles. The weapons are virtually identical to other AR-15-style assault rifles on the market. The rifles alone will cost the city $70,018.80, at $488.90 apiece.

Additionally, the department requested 148 backup front sights, 148 backup rear sights, 444 rifle magazines, and 148 hand guards.

An MPD spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a message from New Times about the request. It's unclear why the department says it now needs new assault rifles.

The new request could stir concerns among civil rights advocates. When police requested body armor in July, Horacio Stuart Aguirre, head of the city's Civilian Investigative Panel (which investigates complaints against police), said that request concerned him.

"It troubles me," he told New Times. "I believe every man and woman has the right to go home alive. That includes police, but it also includes you and me, especially the not so wealthy, not so good-looking, or not so well-versed in social niceties."

Other local activists said they worried that the "safety equipment" police were requesting in July would only rarely be used to subdue active shooters. Instead, multiple activists warned that police would instead begin to patrol peaceful protests and demonstrations while carrying assault rifles and wearing solider-style armor.

But after the city approved the July rush order, outspoken police union president Javier Ortiz lashed out at Aguirre for his comments in New Times. In a statement, Ortiz said Aguirre didn't want police to have "lifesaving equipment" and added that "if someone wants to harm an innocent person or law enforcement, we must defend ourselves." He then closed the statement using the hashtag #AllLivesMatter, which President Barack Obama has said is insensitive to black Americans.

Law Enforcement Safety Measures and Lifesaving Equipmnet 7-18-16 by Javi Ortiz Fop on Scribd

There is already evidence that the proliferation of Army-grade police equipment has trickled into everyday life across the county.

After the Pulse shooting, Miami-Dade County Police stationed an officer with an assault rifle inside Miami-Dade County Hall. An MDPD spokesperson told New Times that the officer was there to provide a "visible police presence" in the building to deter possible criminals.

But when 100 peaceful protesters arrived at County Hall August 17 to ask commissioners to consider a campaign-finance proposal, those activists were floored to see an MPDP officer walking through the crowd with his fingers wrapped around the rifle's handle.

During the protest, local activist Jasmen Rogers posted a photo of the gun-toting officer on Facebook.

"This is intimidation," she wrote.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.