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City not likely to modify policy
La Grande unlikely to follow Milton-Freewater’s lead and allow employees to carry firearms while on the job
City employees in the Eastern Oregon city of Milton-Freewater received the green light recently to carry firearms on the job, but the same kind of proposal locally does not appear to be high on anyone’s priority list.
The idea in Milton-Freewater originated from a city employee who asked if the employee policy manual could be modified to include a provision to allow municipal workers to carry firearms while at work, Milton-Freewater City Manager Linda Hall said
“We carefully researched and studied (proposals) for about three months. In the end, the conclusion we came to was that we would take a positive staff recommendation to the council,” Hall said.
The city council eventually approved the recommendation to amend the city employee manual to allow employees to carry firearms by a vote of 4-1.
“It does have some caveats to it. It only applies to concealed weapons and they have to be properly permitted,” Hall said. “Also, if a private property owner is uncomfortable with the thought one of our employees is armed, they can let them know and the employee, if they are carrying a concealed weapon, would immediately comply and would not carry a firearm on their property.”
La Grande Police Chief Brian Harvey said such policies need to be carefully crafted and thought out to address safety and insurance issues.
“There can be some value with that type of program if it’s implemented the right way. It is a complex issue,” he said.
Hall conceded the city employee concealed weapons subject is a complicated one. She also said, however, city employees are competent and professional.
“In the end, I came to the conclusion I trust our employees. They don’t get to be called a Milton-Freewater employee without extensive background checks,” Hall said. “They are professional and I have confidence they won’t take this privilege lightly. They know they’ve been bestowed with a great deal of trust. We are not a staff of vigilantes.”
Baker City City Manager Mike Kee said while he understands the rationale behind a policy like Milton-Freewater’s, he also said there isn’t a compelling need locally for such a measure.
“I don’t see the need and historically we haven’t allowed that. I’ve always advocated, you know, just because you have a concealed weapons permit doesn’t mean you stayed trained in order to use a firearm,” said Kee, who served as police chief in Ontario. “You know as well as I do, unless you train regularly with a firearm you lose your skills. The liabilities just outweigh the advantages.”
Harvey said a policy such as Milton-Freewater’s must be carefully worded and that adequate training would be needed. Even if the employees have a concealed carry permit, he said the training required prior to getting the permit “doesn’t address the level of training” that would be necessary for the program.
La Grande City Manager Robert Strope said the issue hasn’t really been raised locally.
“A couple years ago there was some discussion about whether employees with concealed carry permits should be allowed to carry on the job,” he said. “We’ve never really explored it at all at this point.”
Hall said she does not foresee any major problems in the future regarding the new policy.
“I don’t expect a great deal of our employees to take advantage of it. I’m confident that it will be business as usual. What I’ve told the council is, so far, public opinion supports it,” she said.
Proponents said the town of 7,100 has a small police force and being prepared makes sense.
“A lot of things are happening these days,” council member Jeff Anliker told the East Oregonian. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The no vote came from council member Ed Chesnut, who said firearms training for city employees can only be suggested and encouraged, and some residents are nervous about the idea of city staff members carrying guns.
“I would hope we don’t have a lot of employees who avail themselves of this,” he said.