To Chicago police: Arming with assault weapons not the answer

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The first three months of this year the city had 87 homicides, one less than a year ago. The common factor was guns. Last month, nine people died after 36 shootings during one weekend. Mayor Richard M. Daley said there is tremendous access to firearms, an

Daley’s assessment last month was in support of Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis’ decision to step up the police’s visibility in high crime areas, and to arm all 13,000 police officers with highpowered assault rifles.

Special Weapons and Tactics officers currently are the only officers in the department that carry combat firearms. Other officers carry handguns. A South Side resident said she understands it if police need to amp up their manpower to meet the needs of the community. “It seems as though nothing is deterring the crime.

The increased presence isn’t doing it alone. If there are high-powered rifles on the streets, they (police) need to at least match what they are up against,” said Belisa Weil. In Morgan Park, Mitchell Sawyer said the community’s relationship with the police could be better, and doesn’t fault either side.

The police have a responsibility to get a handle on crime, and should try every option available, but sending in more police with military-style weapons will just create a more hostile environment, Sawyer added. “I don’t engage in criminal activity, nor do I associate myself with anyone who does. But, a lot of young guys are judged by the police for the way they look. They are grouped together and searched for no reason.

I see it all the time. If an officer with an assault rifle approaches you, it looks like they are coming to kill you, not talk,” 20-year-old Sawyer said. A retired police officer said the decision to arm all officers with “war” weapons will not increase peace in the community, but add tension. “In certain instances where it is absolutely necessary, such as a hostage situation or a similar situation, assault weapons must be used.

But outside of that, I’m opposed to it,” said Jerry Crawley, a retired 34- year police officer. “Simply increasing police officers in certain hot spot areas will only increase the level of disconnect between the two.

The average police officer who is assigned to hot spots is there to generate arrests. Now, once you bring in SWAT, they will be there to create an incident to utilize their SWAT training. Again, it will cast an additional shadow on the strained relationship between the police and the community,” said Crawley, who is also second vice president of the Guardian Police Organization, a group for Black police officers.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. will also add more firepower. The department will arm 300 of its 3,800 officers with AR-15 assault rifles, similar to M16 and M4-type semiautomatic weapons.

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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