APD to get weapon upgrade

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

All officers in the Andalusia Police Department will soon be equipped with a semi-automatic weapon, thanks to a vote by the city council Tuesday.

APD’s Lt. Paul Dean, who is a certified FBI firearms instructor and a Chuck Julian Tactical School law enforcement patrol rifle instructor, addressed the council with the request.

“Two weeks ago today, there was a tragedy in our neighboring counties,” Dean said. “We do have the weapons that could be used (in a similar situation), but they’re only issued to supervisors. Normally, a police officer arrives with a sidearm and a shotgun.”

At best, he said, the officer’s accuracy with a sidearm would be 15 yards; with a shotgun, 25 yards. Primarily, they are defense weapons.

Dean asked the council to purchase 10 Bushmaster AR-15 M-4 rifles and four conversion kits for rifles the department currently owns, as well as ammunition for the guns. In addition, Chief Wilbur Williams said, the local Masonic lodge has agreed to purchase six of the M-4s for the department.

Dean said the new rifles have an effective range of 300 yards. Local officers would only be issued the higher-powered weapon after being certified in its use. Each officer will be recertified each year.

Williams said that more than ever, officers are being put in defensive positions.

“We don’t want to be cowboy hotshots,” he said. “But every one of those officers (in Geneva County) were outgunned.”

Williams said the 1999 Columbine High School massacre was a perfect example.

There were officers on the scene, he said, but they were waiting for officers with more powerful weapons to arrive. If the initial responders had had the weapons they needed, he said, lives could have been saved.

The council approved the purchase of the weapons and ammunition, expected to cost $11,500.

In addition, they approved the purchase of three new patrol vehicles for the police department, part of the department’s annual rotation of vehicles.