Highway Patrol spending $645K on shotguns; old ones don’t fit in new cruisers

The Ohio Highway Patrol is spending more than $600,000 to replace its shotguns because the old ones are too long to fit in the front seat of the Dodge Chargers the state bought to replace Ford Crown Victoria cruisers, the law-enforcement staple that is no longer manufactured.

Lt. Anne Ralston, spokesperson for OHP, said age was also a factor in the decision to replace the shotguns.

“In addition to the car change-over and the gun not fitting in the smaller cruiser, these shotguns were 10-15 years old, and due to inclement weather exposure, proper functioning and officer safety was a concern,” Ralston said.

The new guns — Remington 870’s with 14-inch barrels — can be mounted upright in the front seat of a new cruiser, while the older 20-inch Remingtons would only fit in the trunk.

“It has to be in the front so we have easy access,” Ralston said.

Ralston said the old shotguns were at one time mounted inside the Crown Vics above troopers’ heads, but about seven years ago they were moved into the trunk. These days, the cruisers’ front seats are fitted with a variety of equipment, including video cameras, mobile data terminals and keyboards.

All troopers carry a sidearm — a Sig Sauer P226 — and each cruiser is equipped with a shotgun, Ralston said.

“We’ve had shotguns for years. It’s an effective weapon. It’s a reliable weapon,” she said.

Troopers also are being trained to use rifles in preparation for a statewide rollout of those weapons.

“Our officers need to have other resources available to them depending on the situation,” Ralston said.

Last year the state began phasing in the new cruisers — which cost $22,882 each — and the process should take about two years, she said.

By a 7-0 vote this week, the state Controlling Board approved the Department of Public Safety decision to purchase the shotguns for the Patrol and for the Ohio Investigative Unit from Vance Outdoors Inc. of Columbus without competitive bidding.

The approval of the purchase under the “agency-released competitive opportunity” process requires that the department obtain pricing but doesn’t require formal bids, part of an effort to simplify purchasing, said Randy Cole, president of the Controlling Board.

“Last year, the legislature created a new category where ‘sealed bids’ weren’t used, but agencies used other legal authority to allow for competition,” said Cole, who is also policy advisor in the office of budget and management.

He said Vance had the lowest price with trade-in of three possible suppliers.

The state is buying 1,483 guns for the Highway Patrol in two batches for a total cost of $645,011, which includes a trade-in allowance for some of the old guns. Most were bought in June for $604 apiece with a $187 trade-in allowance from Vance. The rest will now be purchased for $550 each with no trade-ins, Joe Andrews, spokesman for the department of public safety, said.

The state is also spending $98,980 for 110 shotguns for the Ohio Investigative Unit, which handles complaints and warrants involving liquor control, food stamp benefits, gambling and human trafficking.

Those Remington 870s were more expensive than the patrol’s — $1,043 each — because they need additional features such as lights for officers who often do their work in dark places, Andrews said.

The investigative unit’s existing Mossberg shotguns are being replaced due to age. They are more than 12 years old and showing signs of decreased reliability and increased repair costs, according to Controlling Board documents. Vance is paying the state $150 for traded-in Mossbergs.

The OHP’s used Remington shotguns are already a hit with gun buyers, according to internet gun blogs Huey’s Gunsight and Smith & Wesson Forum, where web posters indicated that Vance was selling used patrol guns for $270 to $299 last summer after the first round of trade-ins. Blogger BuckeyeChuck on the Smith & Wesson site warned gun enthusiasts that the “cart of shotties” at Vance sold out quickly.

“I did not intend to be a ‘Gun tease’ with that post and merely wanted to let others know about (what I still consider to be) a great deal on a great gun locally here in Columbus,” blogger Huey wrote after learning the shotguns had sold out after he had told readers about them.

Doug Vance, vice president of Vance Outdoors, said the police version of the Remington 870 is popular because it is “kind of like an upgraded version” of the typical consumer version, and the used ones are hard to find and a good bargain. People also like the cachet of a shotgun with the Ohio Highway Patrol logo engraved on the weapon, he said.

Andrews said the state takes care in putting the used Ohio law enforcement weapons back on the market by dealing only with federally-licensed dealers.

“It would insure that they are in compliance with federal guidelines on sale of weapons,” Andrews said. “It’s not like going to a flea market or going to a gun show to buy a weapon. They go there and they have to fill out a form.”