Special Report: Philadelphia police's increased firepower policy

April 28, 2013 8:55:02 PM PDT
It's no secret, on the streets of Philadelphia, police encounter some heavy firepower. On the range and on patrol, the department issued 9mm handgun has been the standard, but Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says it was time for a change to higher caliber weapons.

This change in the gun policy has been going for a little more than two years strong, but the change is impacting every new officer and a lot of the veterans who are deciding to switch to higher caliber weapons.

1,200 guns have been taken off the streets so far this year.

The yearly average is between 4,000 and 5,000 with many of them being high powered weapons.

So now, new police recruits can choose the higher caliber .40 or .45 while veteran officers have the option to upgrade or stick with the 9mm.

"We don't want to get into an arms race where we have to start getting .50 calibers, but I think it's only right that officers have at least firearms available to them that they feel comfortable with," Ramsey said.

On Friday, Action News showed surveillance video of a man terrorizing a North Philadelphia area with an AK-47.

The commissioner says the change in policy is less about stopping power and more about putting officers on an equal playing field with the bad guys.

But there are limitations because of safety issues when firing at a target.

"Thugs don't worry about the background, they just shoot, so there are some limitations and there always will be limitations on the kinds of weapons we can use," Ramsey said.

That's where local firearms trainer Jeff Bloovman says good training comes in.

Bloovman owns Armed Dynamics where he instructs off-duty police officers and private citizens. He says there's not much of a difference between the guns.

"I would say take that money that you were going to spend for those guns and put it on the training," Bloovman said.

At The Gun Range in Spring Garden, Bloovman showed Action News the difference in the 9mm, the .40, and the .45. He believes 9mm are better for officers because they hold more bullets.

"Going from a 9mm to a .45, I don't think it's worth it. I would rather have more bullets for that gunfight than fewer bullets for that gunfight," Bloovman said.

Commissioner Ramsey says there's been good feedback about this policy change with officers liking the option.

The top cop who has admitted he's not a gun guy also made a switch to a .45.