San Antonio to Let Cops Carry Own Rifles
Police Chief William McManus has authorized a new policy that will allow any
officer in the department to carry his or her own assault rifle while on
duty, an expansion of firepower that some consider critical in defending
against heavily armed suspects.
Created in light of a limited budget, the allowance will take effect as soon
as the Police Department acquires enough ammunition to issue to officers who
choose to bring their own rifles to work. According to police union
president Teddy Stewart, that could be a great many.
"A bunch of them feel very strongly about it," Stewart said Wednesday.
Members of civil liberties groups did not raise major concerns about the new
policy Wednesday, although one spokeswoman sounded a wary note.
"Overall, the trend is, the more high-powered weapons introduced into a
force, the more use-of-force issues we seem to have," said Debbie Russell,
spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
Officers who use their own guns first must qualify at a shooting range and
may carry only AR-15s, a type of semi-automatic rifle already issued to
about 30 officers in the Police Department, police spokesman Gabe Trevino
He added that cops would carry their rifles inside a case and deploy them
only with permission from a supervisor, except in emergency situations.
The guns, authorized for use last month, also would be inspected annually
for safety, Trevino said.
Thomas Aveni, a part-time police officer and co-founder of the Police
Policy Studies Council in Spofford, N.H., said law enforcement agencies
across the nation have embraced similar policies. Semi-automatic rifles, he
said, can increase an officer's accuracy and range.
"It's becoming the norm. It's the new paradigm," Aveni said. "I don't want
to see police militarized, but this is a separate issue. Do you want a cop
with a handgun facing a guy with a rifle? That's the basic math."
Nearly two years ago, such a scenario occurred in San Antonio as a cadre of
cops found themselves precariously outmatched in a high-speed gun battle.
Three bank robbers wearing bulletproof vests and wielding semi-automatic
weapons were racing across the city in a pickup, firing wildly and striking
buildings and vehicles. A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper was
grazed in the December 2005 shootout.
No one was seriously injured, and the suspects soon crashed and surrendered.
But Stewart noted that the outcome could have been dire considering none of
the San Antonio cops involved in the chase had weapons more versatile than
"Over the years, criminals have become more sophisticated with the weapons
they carry," Stewart said. The new policy "is a way to allow officers to
have the resources they need without the city having to pay for it."