Cops find themselves in arms race with criminals
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida -- The war on the streets is escalating. As gangs and other criminals pack more firepower, police departments say they find themselves in an arms race.
The officers say they need to level the playing field to survive. And so, on a bright October day about a dozen Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies brought out their big guns at the local firing range.
Rifles crackled. Shell casings flew. Bullets sailed at 3,200 feet per second through paper targets set up a football field's length away. The sharpshooters weren't training for a SWAT team. These were the deputies who patrol the streets and roads from the glittery Gold Coast to the swamps of the Everglades. The fatal shooting in September of a Miami-Dade police officer by a man using an assault weapon put all South Florida police departments on edge. Several other officers were wounded by the gunfire.
"It's not nice we have to arm ourselves like the soldiers in Iraq," said Sgt. Laurie Pfeil, who supervises a sheriff's road patrol in Palm Beach County and is now certified to carry a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle on the job. It's the civilian version of the military's M-16 used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
"We are like soldiers. It is a war, " says Sgt Pfeil.