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Pittsburgh police aim to add rifles to patrol car arsenals

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By Jill King Greenwood
Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pittsburgh police could have the option to carry high-powered rifles in their patrol cars beginning this summer.

The city has long considered providing rifles and shotguns to officers, but the measure took on urgency when a heavily armed man fatally shot three officers responding to a domestic disturbance April 4 in Stanton Heights, city Public Safety Director Michael Huss said Monday.

"I think it helps," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. "Hopefully, it will serve as a deterrent for anybody even contemplating getting involved in a situation like what took place in Stanton Heights."

The city hopes to buy 46 Smith & Wesson M&P rifles using money from the federal Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, part of the economic stimulus law. Huss said city and police officials need to make sure the weapons — which retail for about $1,400 each — are allowable under the grant guidelines.

Each of the police bureau's six zone stations would get six rifles, which could be checked out by officers at the beginning of their shifts and returned at the end. The remaining 10 rifles would be kept at the training academy, Huss said.

The rifles would be locked in the patrol car during an officer's shift, Huss said, and officials hope to use grant money to purchase the locking racks.

"Obviously for safety and security they need to be locked, but they won't be put in the trunk and will be readily accessible to the officers," Huss said.

He said the bureau hopes to begin training officers in June.

Officer Dan O'Hara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said any addition to the arsenal of weapons available to police would help.

"The quicker you can get better firepower to officers on a scene, the more likely it is that we can contain something and end it more rapidly," O'Hara said. "The bad guys may realize we are matched with them, and it may make them think twice about shooting at us."



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