OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty reconsidered his previous position, he said Monday, and will allow officers to carry their personal rifles while on duty until the department buys additional weapons.
Citty said he changed his mind after three officers were shot and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this weekend.
“Right now with everything going on, I want the officers to feel better,” Citty said. “I want them to feel safer.”
Last week, Citty rejected a police union request to allow officers to carry personal rifles following the shooting deaths of five Dallas officers. He had called the proposal from the city’s Fraternal Order of Police “alarmist” and said the policy would present problems for the department ensuring the quality of the equipment.
The department’s about-face on the issue signaled that officers’ concerns were heard, according to Master Sgt. John George, the president of Oklahoma City’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 123.
“We hope and pray the events in Dallas and Baton Rouge don’t reach us here in Oklahoma City,” George said. “But with these changes, we are confident officers will be better prepared to deal with the types of violence recently experienced around the country.”
The department last week approved issuing about 85 new rifles for its supervisors, which will result in a total of nearly 300 department-issued rifles for about 500 officers patrolling the streets, according to police spokesman Capt. Paco Balderrama.
The department has a list of personally owned weapons — including handguns — that proficient officers are allowed to use while on duty, Balderrama said. Until Citty’s announcement, AR-15 rifles like the department issues were not on the list, he said.
The union has requested the personal-rifle policy previously in contract negotiations but failed to sway department representatives, George said. The recent shooting in Dallas brought the issue once again to the forefront of union priorities, he said.
Associated Press writer Ken Miller in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.