FARMINGTON — Seven M-16 rifles remain safely stored at the University of Maine at Farmington Campus Police Department as they have since arriving there two years ago.

“They have never left the station,” UMF police Chief Brock Caton said. “They are here for emergency situations only. Fortunately, the department has not had to use them.”

As part of the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which loans free military surplus equipment to municipalities, UMF is one of three University of Maine campuses to receive the M-16 rifles, according to a Bangor Daily News report.

The University of Maine in Orono received three, the University of Southern Maine received four and UMF received seven for the department’s 24 officers, a combined number of full-time and reserve officers, who cover the campus 24 hours a day, Caton said.

The rifles were obtained from the Wilton Police Department when Chief Heidi Wilcox intended to transfer seven guns back to the 1033 program, Caton said.

“There didn’t seem to be any reason to break up the number,” Caton said of the transfer from Wilton to UMF.

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They went as a package to UMF, Wilcox said, relieved that they would all be accounted for as required annually by the program.  

The rifles came to Wilton under a previous chief’s regime, she said. She has returned most of the military surplus equipment.

Wilcox turned the rifles in when the department bought its own, newer version of the rifle with money received from a federal Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, she said.

She declined to say how many guns were purchased but said it was more than one.

The equipment from the 1033 program comes as is, she said. Not all were in good shape.

While Wilton officers have not had to fire the guns, they have been pulled out for standoff situations in Wilton and surrounding towns, she said.

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Farmington Police Department does not have M-16 rifles but does own a semi-automatic version, Police Chief Jack Peck said.

He said the department has received equipment from the 1033 program in the past but does not have any now. As in Wilton, Farmington officers have never fired them but have used them in standoff situations.

The 16th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado was Monday, April 20, Peck said, noting the potential for multiple shootings on school campuses.

“Hopefully, we’ll never have to use them,” he said, “but we have to be prepared to safeguard the public if an event like that did happen.”

Local police and fire departments gathered last August to train in a scenario involving shootings on the UMF campus.

“Simunition” guns, which fire paint balls, were used for the training, Caton said. County and local departments coordinated use of a Homeland Security Grant to buy simunition guns for training.

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Officers have to be trained once a year on the semi-automatic guns, Wilcox said. They cannot touch the guns until they pass the training.

“The 1033 program allows small departments with small operating budgets the opportunity to upgrade emergency equipment at no cost,” Caton said. “These guns are loaned to us at no cost.”

Other equipment can be obtained through the military program, Wilcox said. She is trying to get a hydraulic lift for the town garage. The police department is allowed to assign the lift to the municipal department, she said.

“It is a good program,” she said, although departments do not know the quality of the equipment. “And, if it is not available in our area, we have to pay for shipping, which is expensive.”

The closest base they can pick up equipment is in Portsmouth, N.H., she said.

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