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City survives hail of budgetary bullets
by Larry Wilson
Jul 19, 2011 | 496 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, the Sparks City Council approved an expenditure of $58,000 for ammunition for the 108 officers of the Sparks Police Department. That sum seemed rather exorbitant so I looked into why ammunition costs so much.

I called a large local sports equipment supplier to find out the cost of ammunition for a 9 millimeter Glock hand gun, which is often the weapon of choice for the police officers. I discovered that a case of 1,000 rounds sells for between $249 and $279. At the lower rate, if the Sparks Police Department were to buy strictly 9 millimeter ammunition it could buy 232 cases for that amount of money.

That would add up to 232,000 rounds of ammunition. That would give 2,148 rounds to every officer on the Sparks police force.

The annual purchase of ammunition isn’t all for 9 millimeter guns. Ammunition comes in all sizes and the various police departments have to purchase ammunition for every type of weapon in their arsenal. This creates a distinct difference in the costs of the bullets.

Another cost inflator has been the series of recent wars in which our country has become involved. This has created a supply and demand situation that has caused the costs of ammunition to rise as well. Even though the police departments make a bulk purchase, the prices have continued to rise over the last decade or so.

I also thought that if the police were to keep their expended brass casings from firing that much ammunition there could be a savings in the recycling of that brass. In checking with the Sparks Police Department Chief Steve Keefer, I was told that the brass is recycled, which results in a slight savings for the overall cost of ammunition. The prisoners at the regional jail facility, commonly known as Parr Boulevard, are given as one of their regular work details the task of picking up the expended brass for recycling.

An interesting side note: In my research I discovered there is only one local metal recycler that takes in expended brass casings. The going rate is 80 cents a pound and the brass must be segregated in a certain way. Once it is properly separated and evaluated, the brass is sent to China for reprocessing.

The chief also told me that the three local law enforcement agencies — Sparks and Reno police and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office ­— go together and request a bid for their ammunition needs from various suppliers to help bring down the cost with a larger order.

The chief also told me that each sworn officer is to recertify his or her proficiency with various weapons twice each year. All the local police departments use the Regional Training Facility on Parr Boulevard for their weapons training. It is an outdoor facility. There currently is no indoor facility for police to recertify their weapons qualifications.

For security reasons, Chief Keefer wouldn’t discuss the exact type and number of weapons each officer on the Sparks Police Department has control over during his or her shift, but suffice it to say that those officers need ammunition for those weapons.

Despite what seems to be an exorbitant cost for ammunition, it is reassuring to know that our Sparks Police Department officers maintain a high degree of proficiency with their weapons. Our tax dollars are not being spent on bullets for a “Yippee kay-yay, shoot ‘em up bang fest” at the police department, but rather a concerted effort to maintain high standards in law enforcement.

Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. Contact him at
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