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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’s SWAT team, which is armed with MP5 9 mm submachine guns, is usually called out any time officers encounter suspects with high-caliber weapons.

Patrol officers, however, have the option of increasing their firepower.

DeKalb allows an officer to purchase his or her own AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle similar to an M16. The officer can carry it on duty only after passing a specific 40-hour training class and qualifying at the county’s range, O’Brien said.

Firearms experts say most law-enforcement agencies across the nation are moving toward the .40 caliber because it can stop a threat more effectively.

“This bullet is slower than the 9 mm but is bigger and has more impact,” DeKalb Deputy Chief Diane Loos said.

Bullets expand like an umbrella when they strike tissue. Because the new bullets are larger - the 9 mm is about a third of an inch in diameter, and the .40-caliber is slightly wider - they go deeper and cause a larger wound, according to John Finor, first vice president of the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners.

“The .40 will have a much larger projectile,” Finor said. “Your chances of stopping an aggressive action or someone who is a threat is much greater.”

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Finor, who retired from Philadelphia police after 32 years, serves as the firearms examiner for the Montgomery County, Pa., district attorney, testing bullets for about 50 police agencies. Finor said many law-enforcement agencies across the nation began looking at increasing firepower in the late 1990s after Los Angeles police officers were outgunned during a bank robbery and shootout.

“For firepower, we’re seeing lots of patrol officers starting to carry AR-15s and other patrol rifles because of the threat of coming in contact with the assault rifle,” Finor said. “When you see major cities allowing officers to carry patrol rifles, that speaks volumes about the crime situation.”

O’Brien said his officers routinely come in contact with assault rifles and other “serious” weapons.

In September, DeKalb officers arrested a man who had slipped out of handcuffs and stolen a Duluth police cruiser. When apprehended, he was carrying an AR-15 that he had stolen from the Duluth officer, police said.

“The criminal element has more powerful weapons. We want equal firepower. It’s just a sign of the time,” said Larry Johnson, the DeKalb County Commission’s presiding officer. “If it protects one officer, it’s a worthy investment.”

In 2009, 47 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in the United States - a 24 percent increase from the previous year, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.

In April, three Pittsburgh officers were killed and two wounded after a man armed with an AK-47 opened fire during a standoff.

A month earlier, three officers died in Oakland, Calif., when a suspect opened fire with an assault rifle.

“We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had any casualties, but we want to be prepared,” O’Brien said.


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