Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Wichita Police officers will soon be adding a high-powered weapon to their arsenal. The chief received approval Tuesday for 36 new assault rifles.
Right now, only the SWAT Team carries rifles. Wichita's every day beat officers carry only handguns and shotguns. The problem with that, the chief says, is that those weapons are only effective from short distances.
"From 25 yards, it's fairly simple to put rounds on target," explains Lt. Jeff Allen as he demonstrates an M-4 rifle at the Wichita/Sedgwick County shooting range.
After little discussion, the city council unanimously voted in favor of a measure that would add 36 rifles to the Wichita Police Department's arsenal. The $64,000 request will be paid for through the federal Justice Assistance grant.
"When you look at suspects on the streets, they can carry anything under the sun," said Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams. "We're seeing more and more assault weapons out on the streets than we have in maybe 15-20 years ago. Our goal is to be just as effective in what we carry as the suspects are carrying on the street."
The typical handguns and shotguns that officers carry today are only effective at close ranges. As you get farther away than 15-to-20 yards, officers say they become extremely unreliable.
"If we walk into a situation where we're faced with someone whose beyond 25-30 yards, the ability for us to be able to effectively mitigate that circumstance with handguns is minimal," Lt. Allen said.
Chief Williams cited several recent incidents in which police responded to dangerous situations and were outgunned by suspects.
"The most recent one," the chief said, "was the late Deputy Brian Etheredge where rifles proved to be very effective dealing with the suspect that also was armed with a rifle. So it's not only beneficial for the community, but for the officers when it comes to safety."
The department will be supplied with two new rifles per shift, per patrol bureau for a total of 36 weapons. Each officer who gets on will have to go through a rigorous selection and training process.