Assault rifles will give APD more options
By John Dilmore
The acquisition of new assault rifles will give the Atlanta Police Department greater flexibility in responding to active shooter situations should they arise -- and will also allow the conversion of APD shotguns to “less-lethal” weapons.
Atlanta Police Chief Jay Womack recently described for the city council how the new assault rifles will benefit the department.
He said officers have traditionally carried a mix of weapons in differing calibers in their vehicles, which is not necessarily unusual for a small-town force. His goal was to have uniform weaponry.
“But I wanted to get a weapon that will give our officers the ability to survive if we have an active shooter situation in this town,” Womack said.
The department now has 14 .223 caliber short-barreled Windham assault rifles, which cost approximately $780 each. The weapons have semi-automatic and fully automatic capability, and will include 30-round magazines.
Womack noted that the short barrels make the weapons functional in close-quarters situations, including from within a vehicle if necessary.
Officers will be qualified on the weapons, training that will include transitioning from a handgun to the assault rifle, and “trigger discipline” that will teach them to fire five-round bursts when the weapons are in fully automatic mode.
Womack also described the rounds that will be used.
“It doesn’t have the penetrating ability that most of your .223 rounds have -- it’s going to fragment really quick” he said. “I did that for a reason. You miss somebody and it goes through one wall, it’ll fragment before it gets through another wall.”
Once the new rifles are in service, the APD’s shotguns will be converted to less-lethal weapons, firing only a bean-bag style round. Conventional shotgun ammunition will be removed from the department.
Tasers will still be an option for officers, but the new shotgun rounds give them an option with greater range. Tasers are only effective up to 25 feet or so.
“If you’ve got somebody that’s a threat to you at 30, 35, 40 (feet), that (the less-lethal shotguns) is what we’re going to use,” Womack said. “That’s going to help us save lives. When that hits you, you’ll know it.”
The weapons fore-stocks will be painted a fluorescent color to indicate their less-lethal nature.
“We’re not going to have one lethal shotgun around in our department once these (the Windham assault rifles) go into service.”
Officers will be required to unload and reload shotguns when they change hands to be sure the less-lethal rounds are in use.
Of the assault rifle purchase, Womack said, “I want to thank each council member, Mr. Cockrell (City Manager David Cockrell) and Mr. Crow (Mayor Keith Crow), for giving the police department the opportunity to get an outstanding weapon.”