The New York City Department of Corrections is spending about $150,000 on ammunition and various firearm accessories, the third major purchase of guns or gun-related products in the past 12 months.
The latest purchase includes nearly $64,000 for spotting scopes and tripods, about $20,000 for rifle scopes and more than $69,000 for ammunition, records show.
The new equipment, first reported by Gothamist on Sunday will add to the veritable arsenal the DOC has assembled over the last year — including 10 sniper rifles purchased last November and 30 submachine guns picked up in June.
A spokesman for the department justified the purchases Monday by saying its members act as first responders and can be called to critical incidents across the city — including any reports of a potential shooter at LaGuardia Airport.
“DOC Emergency Services officers are … the first unit mobilized to assist the Port Authority in active shooter situations due to Rikers’ proximity to LaGuardia,” the spokesman said.
“The new weapons will replace existing older models of the same [or] essentially similar long guns in the DOC arsenal.”
A DOC source also insisted that the purchase was necessary to ensure the security of city prisons, such as the troubled Rikers Island.
“Common sense says that there are dangerous people in the care and custody of the Department of Corrections and that it needs to be a safe place,” the source told The Post.
However, not everyone thinks the expensive purchases are a good idea – especially when the financially weak city wants to cut its budgets across the board.
Marc Bullaro, a former deputy warden at Rikers, told Gothamist that it was unlikely that correctional officers would actually use the equipment.
“We’re talking about El Chapo,” Bullaro told the outlet, pointing to jailed Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán as an example of when guards might break out their new toys.
“We’re not talking about the average man in New York City who kills someone or gets arrested for five kilos of cocaine.”
Bullaro also said the department should use the money it spends on guns and ammunition on other things.
“If the DOC didn’t have these weapons, there’s still the police, the state police and all these other agencies that have these weapons,” he told the outlet. “This money should be used for other things.”
Last November, the DOC dropped $100,000 on 10 sniper rifles — just as it was grappling with security problems at the often problematic Rikers Island complex.
The weapons – M-10 long-range rifles made by Rochester-based Amchar Wholesale Inc. – were issued to a specially trained team for “extraordinary, high-risk situations,” a DOC spokesman said at the time.
Some also didn’t like this purchase and questioned why the island prison complex needed such powerful weapons.
“It’s not like anyone is going to storm Rikers Island — and if they do, I’m pretty sure they’ll have enough ammunition to counter it,” a law enforcement source told The Post at the time.
“I would say save weapons like this for the NYPD, the ATF and counter-narcotics.”
But the department continued to build its stockpile, securing 30 MP5s from Heckler & Koch in June for more than $90.00 – while declaring that they, too, would only be used by a specially trained team in exceptional, high-risk situations would .
Keith Taylor, a 23-year veteran of the NYPD Emergency Services Unit and former DOC deputy corrections commissioner, said at the time that the MP5s were an important part of the prison’s arsenal and not “for internal purposes.”
“When conducting tactical security operations, such as escorting high-value target prisoners to and from court proceedings, they must have a plan in place that includes the use of sufficient weapons to deal with all types of threats they may require,” Taylor said, who is now an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.
“They can’t rely on the NYPD to solve all of their security problems, so they have to have that capability themselves,” he added.
These guns came from Thomas J. Morris III/Eagle Point Gun in Thorofare, a licensed New Jersey gun dealer who contracts with the city.
The gun purchases come as the DOC continues to face a withering storm of criticism over complaints about harsh conditions at Rikers and its failure to report inmate deaths as required by law.
Earlier this year, the DOC sparked further backlash when it announced it would no longer disclose when an inmate dies behind bars.
The policy change came after DOC officials reportedly tried to suppress a federal monitor’s report of five disturbing incidents behind bars over a six-day period in May.
The monitor was installed in 2015 to counter allegations that guards regularly used unnecessary force.
In April, City Hall agreed to pay more than $53 million to settle class-action lawsuits that alleged some inmates were mistreated behind bars, confined in close quarters and deprived of sunlight.
The settlement — which was the culmination of a lawsuit by a dozen men who claimed they were beaten by Rikers Island guards — also introduced a number of other reforms, such as installing 8,000 security cameras throughout the complex.