(KTVI) – One small Police Department is acquiring new assault rifles and armored protection, while the nation debates how some police departments look like the military.
If you talk to a police officer about what they`re up against, you`ll probably hear about fears they`re outgunned.
That was the case in the infamous 1997 North Hollywood shooting. Now some officers say they remain outgunned here in St. Louis County. That`s why the Wellston Police Department is about to get 8 new M16`s, weapons they say are already used by the criminals. Chief GT Walker told me the criminals, “already have them. They definitely have them and they don`t mind using them indiscriminately.”
Politicians are now holding congressional hearings on what`s been called the `militarization` of police. It follows event in Ferguson, where some citizens questioned a ‘military response.’
Wellston Chief Walker says the police tools are nothing new. He points out the North Hollywood shooting was nearly 20 years ago, revealing the dangers of police being outgunned.
LAPD had to borrow rifles from gun shops to stop two bank robbers with body armor and automatic weapons.
Walker explained how police remain outgunned even though the public doesn`t hear about every case. He said, “Recently there were two or three instances where people used assault rifles as their weapon of choice. We`ve had instances here where there`ve been assault rifles used all over the County and an officer with a 9 mm or 40 caliber pistol against an AK47 or AR15 is seriously outgunned.”
Assistant Chief Chris Clay added, “It`s not like the officers are walking around every day with that equipment.” Lt. Clay said Wellston officers will be trained on how and when to use the rifles.
He added, “We have a high school and what`s going on across the nation you see these shootings in the high schools and we need to have the equipment to prepare for that.”
Wellston PD also just acquired a Humvee, from a Missouri Department of Public Safety surplus program. They`ll paint it, to look friendlier. Chief Walker said it’s not always about using force. He said, “We have several areas in the city that flood when it rains and it`s completely impassible. We`ve had cars get stuck there and citizens need to be rescued. We`ve had to call the fire department, but with a Humvee, we should be able to reach them ourselves and make the rescue.”
Walker said the debate should not about the police equipment or their tools. He it’s about a police department`s approach. He said training is important, as well as constant communication about how his officers can show they`re part of the community and not against it.