LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Indianapolis to Issue Patrol Rifles


Longer-range rifles that the Indianapolis Police Department has had in storage since last year will be in officers' hands possibly by November, department officials said Thursday.

The announcement follows criticism from IPD officers that they regularly face criminals who have more firepower, although officials say their announcement was not a response to those complaints.

The criticism increased after IPD Patrolman Timothy "Jake" Laird was gunned down Aug. 18 by a Southside man firing an SKS-style assault weapon from more than 150 yards away.

Indianapolis Police Chief Jerry Barker said Thursday that the 218 rifles, known as M-16s, will be given to officers as the weapons are modified and as officers are trained to use them. He said training would occur at a range at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, a military base about 45 minutes south of Indianapolis.

Laird was killed and four other officers were wounded when Kenneth C. Anderson went on a shooting rampage. Anderson also killed his mother, Alice. Laird was killed when a bullet struck him just above his protective vest.

"It's taken the department quite some time to make it a reality, but we're glad (they are) making strides to make it a reality," said Sgt. Vince Huber, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. "It'll be a good start. The weapons will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so no matter what time, you'll have a weapon to match the criminal."

Ranges at Camp Atterbury will accommodate the 100-plus yards needed when firing an M-16.

Barker said the decision to issue the rifles had been in the works for months and was not a reaction to Laird's death and the ensuing criticism from officers. Barker met Thursday with Public Safety Director Robert Turner and specialists in training and firearms to discuss use of the weapons.

"When it comes to long rifles for officers, we will do this in a cool, calculated manner," Barker said. "It comes down to safety, safety, safety. The final result will be excellence -- the community has my word."

In most cases, IPD's 1,200-member force uses .40 caliber Glock handguns. Also, some officers have 12-gauge shotguns. Some on the force, such as SWAT members, already have access to specialty weapons and gear.

IPD received the guns last year but delayed their use, partly because of range safety issues. Indianapolis did not have a range where training with the more powerful rifles could take place safely, police said.

Turner has said issuing the new rifles would not have made a difference during the Aug. 18 confrontation with Anderson. That's because of the darkness and the number of homes in the area where the shooting rampage took place. Officers are trained to avoid shooting indiscriminately, especially in densely populated urban areas.

Barker said Thursday the department still encourages use of less-lethal weapons.

IPD will use the Colt M-16, A1. It is being modified to make it semiautomatic -- meaning one squeeze of the trigger will fire just one bullet, said Lon Harness, a civilian firearms instructor for IPD.

That's important in densely populated urban areas where stray shots can strike innocent bystanders Forty guns have been modified so far.

The Marion County Sheriff's Department has 49 of a similar patrol rifle, the Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic. The department has had them for three years, partly due to the death of a sheriff's deputy, Jason Baker, on Sept. 17, 2001. Baker was killed by a gunman armed with an assault rifle.

Sheriff's deputies get a week of intense training on the AR-15 along with regular drilling on their use.

"We felt the need . . . to equip ourselves, for lack of a better term, to meet force with force," said Sheriff's Capt. Phil Burton. "In order to provide safety to the public."

IPD can expect healthy scrutiny from groups such as the Leaf/ Radford Alliance of Indianapolis, which pushes for better training and the elimination of excessive force by law enforcement.

John Prince, chairman of the group, argues that thieves will just try to make their weapons more powerful to regain the advantage.

"We don't think the answer lies in accelerated weaponry," Prince said.