The city council in the eastern Iowa town of Marion is scheduled to vote tonight on a proposal from the city’s police chief to arm officers on the street with assault rifles. Currently, only members of the Marion SWAT team carry such weapons.
Police Chief Harry Daugherty says his officers should have more than just a sidearm or shotgun when they encounter a suspect with an assault rifle. “If the street officer is the first on the scene, God forbid that we’d have a situation at one of our schools or anywhere that you needed to neutralize the threat immediately and you cannot wait for your SWAT team to get there,” Daugherty says.
If approved, the city would spend roughly $50,000 to purchase 25 semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifles for Marion Police officers. Daugherty says, in recent years, his department and other Iowa law enforcement agencies have been encountering more criminals who are armed with assault rifles. “I want my officers to be better prepared to handle that,” Daugherty says. “Just for the officer’s safety and the public’s safety…I want them to at least be on the same playing field as whatever they’re dealing with.”
The assault rifles are expensive — about $2,000 each — but, Daugherty hopes his officers won’t need to use them. “I hope they never come out of the car…but, I want my people prepared for whatever situation comes up,” Daugherty says.
The Marion Police officers would take a pay deduction to purchase and eventually own the weapons themselves, so the city would recoup the $50,000. Daugherty says many police departments in Iowa and across the country are taking similar steps to arm street officers with assault weapons.