In the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut and the massacre at the movie theater in Colorado, the Metro Nashville Police Department is making a big policy change.
The department will now allow its officers to carry their personally-owned rifles similar to the AR-15 platform while on duty.
"I've kind of adopted a policy of 'never be the first, never be the last,' so I wanted to be comfortable with it before I asked the public to be comfortable with it," said Chief Steve Anderson.
Each rifle must be inspected and approved, and no modifications can be made after approval.
And each officer approved to carry a rifle must complete a three-day training course.
Twenty Metro officers will take part in the first training class later this month, and Anderson said this move is in the best interest of safety for both the public and police officers.
"We've picked 20 officers from across the department to start the training process. It's somewhat of a pilot program. We want to look at our training, we want to look how the officers are handling this," Anderson said.
This has been a big issue for the Fraternal Order of Police, who say there are situations in which their officers feel outgunned by the bad guys who are packing powerful firepower.
"Potentially, you can be engaged with someone who has a longer standoff range. This is a force equalizer in the situations where it becomes necessary. This gives the tools to the officers to take the action where necessary," said Robert Weaver, president of Nashville Fraternal Order of Police.
Officers feel Metro's policy is exactly what it needs to be.
"We feel this finds the balance of weapon proficiency combined with law enforcement professionalism," Weaver said.
About one-third of the department's nearly 1,400 police officers personally own rifles that fall into the approved category, with the retail price ranging from $800 to $1,200, so officials said there is no current plan to use city funds to purchase patrol rifles.
Some other Middle Tennessee police departments, including Brentwood police, issue AR-15 rifles to their officers.
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