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Police safety, SWAT topics of discussion at Derry council meeting after Arkell slaying

Union Leader Correspondent

May 23. 2014 11:01PM

DERRY — Eight days after Brentwood police officer Stephen Arkell was fatally shot, the topics of police safety and SWAT assignments came up at the Town Council meeting.

Councilors were considering a request by the Derry Police Department to accept a grant through the U.S. Department of Justice to buy law enforcement items.

Arkell, 48, was gunned down by Michael Nolan while responding to a domestic disturbance at the residence in Brentwood on Monday, May 12. Nolan, 47, died in an explosion during the violent ordeal, authorities said.

Arkell’s death prompted an outpouring of support from the community he served. Thousands of officers from across New England and the country attended a memorial service for him Wednesday at Exeter High School.

Derry police want to use about $19,000 in funding from the 2014 Justice Assistance Grant to buy such items as a $600 video system for the department’s prisoner transporter.

They also want to buy special gun-mount flashlights that cost $105 each and would be provided to 56 members of the department. In addition, 56 corresponding holsters at $115 each would also be required, said Chief Edward Garone, who made the presentation to councilors.

The project would total $12,320.

After the presentation, Garone was questioned during a public hearing by resident Mark Flattes about the need to buy the special flashlights. Flattes said he agreed the department needed all of the other items on the list, but questioned whether the flashlights were necessary.

“It seems like we are getting a little military there,” Flattes said, and then asked Garone, “Is this for like a SWAT assignment?”

Flattes said each officer already carried a weapon and a handheld taser. He also questioned the size of the flashlights.

“It just seems like a little bit of overkill maybe,” Flattes said.

Garone said the flashlights are about one and half inches long, with a diameter just over an inch. He said they are fitted on the end of weapons and are not a laser sight but used as an illumination device.An officer would use the flashlight when entering a darkened house with someone inside who could be armed.“The police officer doesn’t know if he’s armed; the police officer will have his weapon out at this point,” Garone said.

Garone said using the new flashlight would mean officers won’t have to carry a flashlight in the other hand.

“You talked about it being SWAT or military,” Garone said to Flattes. “Unfortunately, as we’ve all learned in New Hampshire and here in Rockingham County recently, sometimes it is SWAT. Sometimes it is a military type of thing. Sometimes an officer is trying to protect a citizen or sometimes he’s trying to protect himself.”

Flattes said he was only questioning whether the flashlights were necessary.

“I understand that and appreciate the job that they do and want them to have the best equipment,” Flattes said.

After the public hearing, councilors discussed the grant proposal, which was greeted with overwhelming approval.

Councilor Al Dimmock said, “Due to what’s happened within the last few weeks, I feel that anything we give our officers that will make them safer and make the community safer, which I believe these items will do, I’m for it.”

Councilors voted 7-0 to approve the grant request.

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