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Topeka police department breaks out the big guns

Topeka, Kan. - The Topeka Police Department has some new weapons for keeping the peace, and they're not your average handgun.

The department recently purchased several new assault rifles to equip patrol cars. They're called AR-15 rifles, the equivalent of the military's M-16. While many of the special units have been using them for years, now as many as 30 more Topeka patrol officers have access to these weapons every day.

"In the last 10 years we've seen an increase in fire power by assailants, mostly high powered rifles," says Sgt. Dave Thomas with Topeka Police, "Shot guns and pistols can't match that."

However, Thomas says the police department's supply of AR-15 rifles can.

"Higher power, higher velocity means the bullet fired from these weapons can penetrate steel, car doors, glass, just about anything," says Thomas.

Officers train with the AR-15 for three days, firing 700 to 800 rounds of ammunition. It's training that Thomas says really pays off.

"Prior to this, patrol officers had to get closer than we would want them to be when controlling the perimeter of a house. This way the officers can safely patrol a perimeter from farther away without harming themselves," says Thomas.

Thomas also says when officers use these weapons it can be safer for the public.

"It gives us the advantage of accuracy which minimizes the innocent civilians getting injured on the streets," says Thomas.

With the latest round of new rifles added to patrol cars, the police force now has as many as 50 AR-15''s, which law enforcement knows is bad news for the bad guys.

"With this gun we have one, we fire it with precision, and expect it to do the job we need it to do," says Thomas.

Police officers who didn''t get one of the department-issued rifles can buy their own and carry it on patrol. Thomas says between 20 and 30 officers do just that.

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