|Updated: 10/09/2012 6:38 pm
||Published: 10/09/2012 6:18 pm
The Broken Arrow Police Department is bringing in the "big guns," literally.
The Broken Arrow City Council cut a check for more than $75,000 to buy assault rifles for the police department.
While most departments in the region have some assault rifles, BAPD will be the first large police force in Green Country in which every patrol officer will carry an AR-15.
Most of the officers already have the weapons and the necessary training. By the end of the year, every officer with the rank of Sergeant or below, roughly 90 in all, will be trained and certified to use an AR-15.
Officers will still carry their pistols and shotguns, but the AR-15 will be another weapon in their arsenal.
The assault rifles look intimidating, but on Tuesday Officer Scott Oelke said that's the point.
"They're safe, they're secure, and our officers are trained with them," Oelke said. "But we do get a lot of questions about the rifles now that we're carrying them."
The problem is plenty of other people are also carrying them, and many are criminals.
"[We] see on the national news where more and more suspects are using body armor and have bigger fire power than the law enforcement community," Oelke said.
"We need to have a more powerful weapon in case we come into a situation where we have to come into contact with suspect that may have body armor, fully automatic, semi-automatic weapons," Cpl. Leon Calhoun said.
Officers have already come across situations like that. Earlier in the summer a local Radio Shack store was robbed, and the robbers were wearing body armor. Had officers gotten into a standoff with the robbers, their pistols and shotguns likely would not have been able to penetrate the bullet-proof vests, but the AR-15 could.
The assault rifles are powerful and accurate enough to hit a target 500 yards away. But they're also lightweight and maneuverable.
"At any time while I'm on patrol I can access my weapon from the cab of my car," Oelke said. "Before, a lot of time we would have to go to the trunks of our cars."
The assault rifles are mounted and locked directly next to the driver seat of the patrol car. The car has to be turned on to unlock the mount, and only the officer unlock the gun from the mount. When officers are off-duty, the assault rifles are removed and locked in a secure room to keep people from trying to steal them.
Oelke said the most important part of getting the AR-15s, though, is that they make officers feel safer.
"It gives the officers a lot more comfort to have a weapon that is a lot more powerful and more versatile," he said. "We can utilize it in almost every instance that we do our job."
All of the officers will continue to go through tactical training and be re-certified to use the AR-15s every year.
The Broken Arrow Police Department is also upgrading other weapons.
The department replaced a lot of officers' handguns, so that every officer now carries the same uniform Glock pistol. Department leaders say having uniform weapons throughout the department makes it easier on officers in dangerous situations because it allows them to share magazines or even share weapons if necessary.