OKC Police: Selected Officers Allowed To Carry Rifle To Protect Themselves

Tuesday, January 10th 2012, 10:56 pm
By: News 9

Across the country, police say criminals are using high-powered guns to take down officers at a shocking rate. Police killed by gunfire was up 20 percent nationwide last year.

As officers call for better guns to protect themselves, News 9's Michael Konopasek takes a look at department policies in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Police say they are keeping safety the top priority. The department's rifle program allows for semi-automatic weapons to be only a short distance away from any officer at any time.

Officers say the standard police handgun is no match for the weapons criminals are now using.

"If it's your butt that's on the line then you really recognize the fact that you need [the rifle] right then," Mike Schoenberger, retired Oklahoma City police officer said.

Schoenberger retired from the Oklahoma City Police Department after 31 years on the force. He says he was allowed to carry a semi-automatic patrol rifle.

"If money was no object, as long as you could qualify and show proficiency and obviously you know your business about being a police officer … yes, I would love to see [all officers] equipped with a patrol rifle," Schoenberger said.

Oklahoma City is not seeing the same uptick in police deaths as the rest of the nation, but it's not taking any chances. In Oklahoma City, selected officers are allowed to carry authorized assault rifles.

"The officers that are ultimately chosen to participate in this program do have to complete annual training," Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow of the Oklahoma City Police Department told News 9.

Currently, the program allows for 88 officers to carry semi-automatic patrol rifles. Those officers are positioned evenly throughout the city to respond as needed. All officers are allowed to carry shotguns, but not all do.

Some metro departments allow most, if not all, of its officers to carry assault rifles. There are no plans for that to happen in Oklahoma City.

In 2011, 177 officers were killed in the line of duty in the United States. That averages out to about one every two days. Of the 177 deaths, 71 of those deaths were gun related.