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Ga. Police Upgrade to .40-Caliber Sidearms to Counter Criminals

Ga. Police Upgrade to .40-Caliber Sidearms to Counter Criminals

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via YellowBrix

January 26, 2010

DeKALB, Ga. — Gangs and drug traffickers have ditched their pistols for assault rifles and other military-style firearms, leaving police outgunned.

To beef up its arsenal, the DeKalb County Police Department is trading in its 9 mm handguns for .40-caliber weapons, which are more effective.

Last week, the County Commission approved the purchase of 1,200 Smith & Wesson .40-caliber handguns to replace the force’s Berettas.

“A common weapon on the streets is a .40 caliber,” acting DeKalb police Chief William O’Brien said. “We’re a little behind the times with the 9 mm.”

Most officers in the metro area and across the nation carry .40-caliber handguns. Some, like DeKalb, give officers the option to carry higher-powered weapons as long as they are trained.

Check out PoliceLink’s extensive handgun reviews.

For O’Brien, the problem was twofold: The department’s 9 mm Berettas were more than 20 years old and no longer manufactured.

“We couldn’t replace them,” he said.

Officers on the streets also found their 9 mm guns could not compete with those in the hands of criminals armed with .40-caliber handguns and assault rifles.

“We got some pretty heinous weapons,” DeKalb District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming said. “We’re seeing AK-47s, street sweepers, military-style weapons. It’s not just your mom’s pistol any more.”

Last year, the county tested weapons from four manufacturers who submitted bids.

“We brought all of the weapons to the range,” O’Brien said. “Officers could go shoot each one and fill out a survey. This model was chosen by the majority of officers.”

Commissioner Lee May said he was pleased the decision was made by officers, not the administration.

“They chose what’s best for them,” he said. “It’s about the officers being safe.”

The $207,475 contract will pay for 1,200 guns, holsters and magazines to outfit the department.

Atlanta police officers also carry .40-caliber Smith & Wesson guns. The department is considering arming its force with assault rifles but is still doing research on the benefits of the weapons, said Officer Otis Redmond, a police spokesman.

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