LAPORTE COUNTY | Practically every officer at the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office soon will be packing rifles in addition to the weapons they now carry.
LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer said rifles, with their much longer range, will come in handy in the event of a situation such as a school shooting where police cannot get close enough to a gunman with a shotgun or handgun, which fire shorter distances.
"Rifles are the up and coming thing in law enforcement," Mollenhauer said.
The county purchased 44 rifles at a cost of more than $40,000. After all of the officers are trained, each will be assigned one of the .225-caliber rifles.
Only members of the department's Emergency Response Team previously were assigned rifles, Mollenhauer said.
Now, practically everyone, even patrol officers, will have a rifle because deputies already on the road are often the ones who can arrive at a situation quicker.
Only the sheriff, Chief Deputy Jim Sosinski and possibly a few other members of the top brass won't carry them, Mollenhauer said.
Mollenhauer said targets 100 yards away were put in at the department's shooting range near the fairgrounds to help in the training, which all of the officers should complete before the end of the month.
LaPorte County sheriff's police Executive Capt. Heath Haferkamp said training primarily involves safe handling of the weapon and accuracy. Each of the officers is being put through 16 hours of training. After they pass, "then and only then is it issued to them for patrol purposes," Haferkamp said.
"It's another tool in our toolbox for law enforcement," he said.
Mollenhauer said officers will take part in periodic training to remain certified in handling of the rifles.