Grant allows standardization of BPD guns

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 22, 2008

Brookhaven Police Department officers spent some extra time onthe range this week, learning the ins and outs of new standardizedweapons the department was finally able to get following aHurricane Katrina grant modification.

Police Chief Pap Henderson said BPD has long issued .357 magnumrevolvers to officers, giving them the choice to carry a .45 or a9mm if they were more comfortable with it. He said in recent years,he’s been looking for a way to update the weaponry so all of hisofficers were carrying the same sidearms.

“This has been overdue,” he said. “We’re probably one of thelast departments shooting revolvers. Then we saw this Smith &Wesson M&P and had the opportunity to shoot it.”

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Henderson said he and Assistant Police Chief Nolan Jones wereacquainted with a dealer who would allow the department to test twoof the .40 caliber guns. After they had a chance to work with theweapons, as well as allowing a handful of officers to test them,the choice was as obvious as the reasoning, Henderson said.

“You want every officer carrying the same model of weapon, notone with a .357, one with a .45, one with a 9mm, because they’renot interchangeable,” he said, adding that it can become an issuein a shootout-type situation. “If we’re carrying one gun, that’sone caliber of ammunition, though we pray to God nothinghappens.”

Narcotics officer and range instructor John Douglas agreed withHenderson that the standardization of the police-issue weapons isbest for the department for tactical reasons.

“God forbid we ever have to use them in that way in the line ofduty,” he said. “But if we did, it’s all interchangeable. And if wewere in a shootout, each of us could rely on a fellow officer for amagazine if we’re out of ammunition.”

Range instructor Sgt. David “Basie” Johnson said the S&WM&P .40 is also a strong law enforcement gun, and having a goodgun gives every officer a little boost of confidence.

“This gun they selected, in my opinion, is a very solid andfunctional tactical weapon,” he said.

Henderson said the money for the guns came through a grant givento the department in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. However, grantfunds had to be used in certain ways before they could be modifiedto accommodate his wish for a new set of firearms for hisofficers.

“Once we had done all the things we had to use the grant forinitially, we had some money left over and we had to submit it inwriting to modify the grant,” he said. “But because the money wasstill to be used for law enforcement, they let us do this.”

Henderson said the time the officers spent on the range thisweek doesn’t just go toward practice and qualification – theofficers have to be certified to carry the new weapons – but alsofulfills some of their continuing education hours.

“Eight of the 24 hours they have to have per year need to be onthe pistol range,” he said. “They’ve also done some classroom workthis week that goes toward those hours as well.”

And the officers will continue to practice with the new weaponsuntil they’re comfortable with them, Henderson said. But he expectsthem to all be carrying the pistols by sometime shortly afterChristmas.

“We’re just very fortunate and blessed to be able to get theseguns,” he said. “It’s a really good Christmas gift.”