Byline: David C. Lipscomb, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Metropolitan Police Department has joined other major U.S. cities in arming patrol officers with assault rifles to protect them against criminals with high-powered weapons, weeks after being released from a federal program that monitors the use of excessive force.
"We want to be as accurate as possible and have more stopping power," Assistant Chief Patrick Burke said yesterday.
The department already has 500 semiautomatic AR-15 rifles, which were converted from fully automatic rifles, and has trained 340 officers to use them.
Chief Burke said the weapons will go in service after the department decides how to rack them in patrol cars, but gave no specific start date.
The Chicago Police Department is making similar plans and the City of Miami Police Department is already using such weapons.
"We need to be equally equipped with the firearms that are being used against the police," said Monique Bond, a Chicago police spokeswoman. "If officers cannot protect themselves, they cannot protect residents."
Last month, Chicago had one of the most violent crime waves in recent history - 36 shootings in which nine people were killed and an AK-47 assault rifle was used to shoot up a plumbing-supply store.
Miami police began giving patrol police assault rifles in September, about a week before a Miami-Dade County officer was killed by a suspect with a high-powered rifle.
Miami Police Executive Assistant Delrish Moss said officials were reluctant to make such a decision but felt it was necessary.
Concerns about D.C. officers using excessive force surfaced after the city lowered standards in police recruiting in 1989 and 1990.
On April 7, the department qualified to end a seven-year, voluntary Justice Department oversight of incidents in which officers used their weapons or other forms of force in the line of duty.
City officers fatally shot 12 people in 1998, and the department led the country in fatal shootings in the 1990s. …