SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Police officers around the country are encountering criminals that carry semi-automatic and automatic weapons.
Here in Savannah, police are seizing a number of firearms, some of those with the capacity to cause a lot of damage from long-range, like automatic rifles.
Because of that, Savannah-Chatham Police Chief Jack Lumpkin believes his patrol officers should be equipped with rifles themselves, for an added measure of safety.
We spoke with the chief Tuesday about his initiative to better arm officers.
"We are considering patrol rifles because of the status of the world, and Savannah," said Chief Jack Lumpkin, SCMPD.
Chief Lumpkin says in his first year, there were four different incidents in which his officers were shot at. He says investigators are seizing semi-automatic and automatic rifles from the streets.
"Our job is to keep the citizens safe, but the police officers have to be safe in order to do that, and the patrol rifles provide a significant opportunity, particularly in active shooters or other types of activities that we hope never strike Savannah," he said.
Officers will have to qualify through training to carry rifles in the field, and they will have to shoot with at least 90 percent proficiency with their service pistol.
"We will authorize certain weapons to be carried. Individuals will determine whether they want to carry the weapon or not, because they're going to have to purchase it or already own. They'll have to actually demonstrate proficiency and efficiency with the weapon," said Chief Lumpkin.
The Chief says he expects 10 to 20 percent of his patrol officers to take advantage of the department authorizing the carrying of semi-automatic rifles. He says he expects the training to start sometime next month, with patrol officers carrying the rifles by the beginning of next year.