City seeks to buy 10 submachine guns, ammo to replace Lexington police's old weapons

The Lexington Police Emergency Response Unit was called to a shooting in July.
The Lexington Police Emergency Response Unit was called to a shooting in July. Herald-Leader

This month, Lexington's Urban County Government will begin accepting bids so it can buy 10 submachine guns, plus ammunition and other accessories, to replace aging equipment at the city's police department.

The bids must be submitted to the city by 2 p.m. Oct. 30, according to a request for proposals — typically called an RFP — dated Oct. 16.

The request says that the submachine guns "MUST be a Heckler & Koch MP5A2 and MP5 SD2," and that no substitutions will be accepted.

Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said the new weapons would replace the weapons carried by the Emergency Response Unit, commonly known as a SWAT team.

"They are too old," she said. "They need to be replaced."

The department's ERU, made up of about 36 officers, answers the call when negotiations are needed. ERU can be called out to myriad situations such as bomb threats, standoffs and NCAA Tournament celebrations.

Only officers who are part of the ERU will have access to the new weapons. The old ones will be locked away at the department, Roberts said.

The city's request for submachine guns comes after weeks of discussion about how local police agencies use military-style weapons. That issue was thrust into the national spotlight after a black teenager, Michael Brown, was killed last month by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo. Officers responded to protests and riots using military-style weapons against civilians.

Last month, members of the Kentucky Legislature's House Local Government Committee conducted a hearing to gain a better understanding of how the use of military-style equipment affects local agencies and communities.

The committee heard testimony from local agencies and from criminal justice experts who spoke for and against local agencies' use of military-grade weapons.

Law enforcement agencies in Kentucky have equipped themselves with military-issue equipment —including rifles, helicopters, Humvees and ammunition — for years. Many of them have received items through the Department of Defense's 1033 program, which provides refurbished military equipment for free or at a discounted price.

Lexington police have received two helicopters from the program. Only one works, officials have said.

The RFP says the city intends to buy eight A2 submachine guns and two SD submachine guns.

The department wants a Heckler & Koch MP5A2 submachine gun with Navy trigger group and a Heckler & Koch MP5 SD2 submachine with Navy trigger group and full stock, the document says.

The request says "more submachine guns may be purchased on an 'as-needed' basis for the term of the contract," which is initially for one year but can be extended for a second year.