Police get new weapons

State Sen. Hank Erwin was in Helena Thursday to officially present Mayor Sonny Penhale with one of the patrol rifles bought with a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Helena Police Capt. Tim Carter said the grant, which went to the Helena Police Department, was worth $16,000 and purchased 21 Bushmaster AR-15 rifles, as well as equipment for the rifles.

The 21 rifles will be given to the 21 full-time officers in the Helena Police Department.

“We applied for the grant somewhere around February. We found out we were awarded the grant about two months ago,” Carter said. “The guns came in last week.”

The guns are partially made of plastic, so they’re not nearly as heavy as full-metal guns. Also, the rifles feature a collapsible stock, so the length of the gun can be changed to fit comfortably.

“The more comfortable they are, the more likely our officers are to carry them,” Carter said.

Carter said the rifles were brought in to make it possible for officers to stay safer while doing their jobs.

“We have shotguns that are very accurate up to 50 yards,” he said. “(The rifles) can be efficient up to 100 yards.”

Also, the rifles are simple to use, which means officers can be brought up to speed quickly – even those who are novice shooters.

Erwin said he helped with the grant because he hopes to help upgrade equipment for all police departments in his district, which includes Bibb, Chilton, Jefferson and Shelby Counties.

“I want to make these communities as safe as they can be. I wanted to send a message to the families of patrolmen. We’re not going to send your men out without every piece of equipment they need,” Erwin said. “And I wanted to send a message to the bad guys. Don’t come in these communities, we’re ready for you.”