Weapons will provide an even playing field between officers, criminals

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

The Alice Police Department held a training course Tuesday officials hope will give officers a new weapon in combating violent criminals law enforcement personnel meet on the streets.

Fifteen officers trained Tuesday with AR-15 and fully automatic M-16 assault rifles, and the department plans to allow those officers to carry the weapons in squad cars while on patrol. Those rifles fire a .223 caliber bullet and have magazines that can hold up to 30 rounds.

Sgt. Cheto Perez, the training coordinator for the Alice Police Department, said that following the eight-hour course the officers will receive certification to use the rifles in the line of duty.

Lt. Santiago Soliz, the director of the Patrol and Traffic Division for the police department, said the increased firepower is necessary because of new challenges the officers are facing on the streets.

"The handgun is not sufficient for some of the situations out on the street. If someone has a high-powered rifle, a handgun is not going to let you get close enough. These weapons will let you have a little more distance," Soliz said. "It used to be more hand-to-hand violence. Now everyone has knives and guns."

The purpose of the course was not just to instruct officers on how to use the weapons, Perez said, but also on when. He agreed with Lt. Soliz, however, that officers face greater dangers on the streets today than just a few years ago.

"There are gang members, and more violence out on the street compared to back in the day," Perez said. "It's becoming an unfair fight."