Chief wants patrol rifle for every officer - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Chief wants patrol rifle for every officer

ST. CLAIR TOWNSHIP, Ohio - The St. Clair Township Police department is upgrading its arsenal from retooled M-16s to new SIG Sauer semi-automatic patrol rifles that fit will fit inside police cruisers.

Police Chief Donald Hyatt is gunning to make sure that every single one of his officers is armed and ready with a patrol rifle in arm's reach.

"It's about leveling the playing field," he says. "More often than not, police departments are finding themselves outgunned by the bad guy."

The department had a few of the guns before, but only in certain cruisers or back at the station where officers would have to return to retrieve one.

That just didn't make sense, the chief says. 

The St. Clair department is joining the ranks of other agencies around the Mahoning Valley who have become certified to use and carry these weapons.

He prays his officers never have to use them, but acknowledges a bank robbery last year at PNC Bank as evidence crimes are becoming more violent.

During the bank robbery, the gunmen jumped the counter and were aggressive to get what they wanted.

"They went in the bank and commandeered the place," Hyatt remcounts. "It was like watching tv."

He says officers knew they would be outgunned if they came face-to-face with the suspects.

"We didn't have access to anything like this," he explains. "So the whole way going there, what do you think is going through the guys' minds?"

The chief attributes most of crime in the community to drug problems so he believes the police are putting seized drug funds to good use by purchasing the new weapons.

Even though this community of approxmiately 10,000 may appear to be quiet, the chief hopes arming his officers with more crime fighting tools will send a strong message to potential criminals.

"People think they're pulling into Mayberry RFD when they're coming here, well they're sadly mistaken," he warns.

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