Police Chief Bill Brooks is also chair of the firearms committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Brooks is one of the faces of the IACP’s “Right to Carry. Duty to Secure.” campaign, which promotes the use of home and vehicle gun safes. The campaign has two goals, reducing the number of stolen guns used to commit violent crimes and the number of accidental shootings involving children.
Brooks practices what he preaches. The Norwood Police Department is hiring. Its new recruits have been told for years now that they need to buy a gun safe. And it’s not a matter of choice. Massachusetts law requires that a gun either be fitted with a trigger lock or stored in a locked container when it is not being carried. “The law requires that [it be secured] when the gun is not under your control. So it’s reflected in our policy,” Brooks says.
A few years ago, the command staff of the department started discussing how officers could be provided with gun safes. “Somebody raised the question: ‘Is there any reason the recruits can’t buy a gun safe with their allowance?’” Brooks says.
The allowance seemed like an ideal solution. But it had one problem, officers were issued their duty weapons before they received their allowance. “Officers were graduating from the academy, and they were not getting their allowances right away. They had to wait until the next fiscal year,” Brooks explains.
The solution to that problem came to Brooks in what he calls a “head slap moment.” The Norwood PD would issue gun safes to its recruits. “We were sending them home with a firearm, often to a household that never had a firearm before, and didn’t have a safe. That had to stop,” he says.
Now, Norwood PD recruits are issued a firearms safe when they receive their duty weapons. They get the safe and instructions on how to install it. They also receive the agency’s policy on authorized firearms and an explanation of Massachusetts firearm law.
Norwood PD pays $200 for each safe that it issues. The safes have a number lock that the officer sets and a key override. They also fit more than one handgun. “The officers often already have their own handguns before we issue the Glocks, and we want them to have the ability to secure them all in the same way.”
“We want our officers to know that we care about them and their families,” Brooks says. “We would hate for there to be an accident or to have the officer’s duty weapon stolen and used in a crime. We feel obligated to take steps to mitigate the chance of these things happening. The officers seem to appreciate that we are doing this.”
Norwood PD does not buy safes for the officers’ personal vehicles, but Brooks says it would be a good idea for the officers to do so. “Many guns used in crimes have been stolen from vehicles. There have also been incidents—not in our community—where a kid has found an unattended firearm in a vehicle and there has been an accidental discharge.”