OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Citing the deaths of five officers in Dallas last week, the Fraternal Order of Police has asked that Oklahoma City officers be allowed to carry their personal rifles and ammunition and be issued additional body armor.
In a Wednesday letter to Police Chief Bill Citty, Oklahoma City FOP President John George called for the changes due to “a higher probability that our officers will face an active shooter situation.”
“The Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police respectfully pleads with you and our city to allow officers to be properly equipped for these types of situations. We are asking that officers be allowed to carry personally owned rifles to protect themselves and our citizens. Allowing our officers to carry rifles could help end a dangerous situation sooner and save innocent lives,” George wrote.
Citty said he’s held discussions with the union about officers carrying their own rifles and doesn’t see it as necessary because of the number of rifles already available in the department.
“The FOP really wants to be alarmist over what happened over the incident that happened down in Dallas. That type of incident is an aberration, it’s not something that happens every day or happens very often,” Citty said.
“Most officers are shot and killed within a short distance; it happens quickly. In most cases they aren’t able to pull their rifles out of the cars quickly enough, so they don’t provide any more safety for the officers than their handguns do.”
Citty said the department has about 200 rifles issued to officers, and about 85 additional rifles will soon be available for supervisors, who are required to respond to any call involving a gun, Citty said.
“If we add the 85, we’re looking at a total of 285 rifles out of a total of 500 people, that’s over 60 percent of the officers out in the field that are going to have rifles now. So we’ll always be guaranteed that we’ll have somebody out there with a rifle if it’s needed under certain circumstances,” he said.
George said after polling members of the union, he received an “overwhelming response” that officers are willing to purchase their own rifles and ammunition if necessary.
Citty said he’s resisted the idea of officers carrying their own guns because it would make it more difficult for the department to control and maintain the weapons.
“I just feel like it’s in the best interest of this department and the city that we provide the equipment for our officers, that they don’t have to buy their own, that we have control over the quality of that equipment,” he said.
Citty said a handgun provides a higher level of control than a rifle.
“Those are the types of things you need to control because we work in an urban environment. We don’t work in a military environment,” he said.
The union also called for the city to buy and issue more ballistic shields and ballistic helmets and a higher level of ballistic plates for personal body armor.
Citty said the department has made changes within the past year by issuing shielded helmets to all new recruits. He said emergency response teams are already equipped with riot gear shields and helmets.
“We obviously want the officers to be ready. If they’re dealing with large crowds or something like that and there’s bottles being thrown, then we want them to be protected, so we are doing that currently,” he said.
Citty said the department will continue to hold discussions with the union. He said the safety of his officers is his main priority, but he does not expect to make policy changes anytime soon.
“We’ll have to have discussions about it, and right now, there’s nothing I know right now that … causes me to say I’m going to make that change and add more rifles or allow officers to carry their own rifles,” he said.
From The Oklahoman