Atlanta is equipping officers with high-powered weapons

A routine midday on Wednesday erupted into gunfire as authorities said a man trained his weapon on police.

Officers came from everywhere. Some who had rifles, arrived within a couple of minutes. That detail signaled an enforcement change the department is undergoing.

The city police department is playing catchup with many suburban departments who have purchased the equipment for their departments.

Deputy Chief Erika Shields said the number of her officers proficient with the AR-15 has more than tripled. Yet, she said, progress takes time. Currently, less than half the number she would like to see qualified with the weapon have made the grade or have been part of the initial classes.

The commander said she knows the public is calling on governments to protect law enforcement given the killings of officers in other cities. Shields cautions a program like this cannot be rushed. The pupil training on the rifle must be accurate.

She acknowledges interest in the voluntary program went up after a change in policy whereby the city decided to purchase the weapons at a cost of about $1,400 apiece. Prior to the policy change, officers had to bring their own rifle.