By Katie Fallon
In addition to garnering nationwide publicity in an advertising campaign for the new Glock .45 pistol, the Sandy Springs Police Department has received another, albeit much more important, advantage from their new service weapons.
Since switching the weapon Sandy Springs’ police officers carry from a Sig Sauer P220 to the newest model of the Glock .45, the department has seen a sizable increase in average accuracy when its personnel complete mandatory re-certification sessions.
Twice a year, police personnel are required to complete a 40-hour block of in-service training. On the first day of training, officers are run through a series of accuracy drills involving firing at stationary targets from 25, 15, seven and three feet.
The minimum qualifying score is 240 out of a possible 300 points. With its previous weapons, the Sandy Springs Police Department averaged a score of 260, or 89 percent accuracy.
Once the department completed the transition period with the new Glocks, however, the average score increased to 288, or 96 percent accuracy.
While the new weapons are credited with keeping the department sharp, Officer Perry Baxter, who trains the city’s police department at a firing range in south Fulton County, said the department’s good shooters have only gotten better.
“If you score less than 240 three times in a row, I take your pistol and you’re put on administrative duty,” Baxter said. “We’re not going to have that in Sandy Springs. But we’ve got good shooters. We hired some of the best, not only officers, but some of the best shooters.”
Baxter, a 32-year law enforcement veteran, also runs officers through tactical training that includes judgmental shooting with “good guy” and “bad guy” targets as well as simulated stress factors officers could encounter in an active shooter scenario.
“That teaches them to operate under duress…to be calm and to let the brain work,” Baxter said. “We have to train them to be proficient and confident with the weapon and to be quick with it.”
The greater accuracy has also given the department a greater confidence in both the skills of its officers and the dependability of the weapons that must protect the community and its citizens. The confidence increase, Baxter said, came when the department switched to the Glock because most law enforcement agencies already use that brand of weapon.
“The thing about law enforcement is we’re set in our ways,” he said. “Most everybody we have was shooting a Glock. “When you put them in something they’re not used to, they’re scores go down. You’re accuracy goes down. Once that goes down, the confidence level goes down. The last thing you need is cops out there who aren’t confident.”
The new training came after the police department used a bid system to acquire new service weapons. Baxter said the previous weapons had problems such a less stopping power, greater kickback and jamming.
“Our hopes were the bid would be low enough that the city would agree to do it,” he said. “We’d just bought other guns that just didn’t work right for us. The city agreed to do it because of the lower bid.”
The department ended up receiving the new Glocks at a cost of $4 per unit for 90 guns. The Smyrna-based company also guarantees maintenance that could keep the guns in the department for a long time.
“Some agencies can go years,” Baxter said. “As long as we service these pistols every year, anything that goes wrong with them, Glock will repair the gun for free.”
Though the city’s police department has been lucky enough to avoid any officer-involved scenarios that require using deadly force, the ability to protect the community has become that much greater.
“We’re fortunate in Sandy Springs that we’ve not had any incidents since we took over,” Baxter said. “If something happens in Sandy Springs, I have no doubt that every weapon we’ve got will function without fail.”
Baxter, however, is not the only member of the police department who has noticed the benefits the new gun has brought the department.
“Glock, by far, is the easiest gun in the world to teach someone to shoot,” said Lt. Bo Eskew, a patrol commander in the northwest portion of the city. “It’s simple.”
Eskew said beside the Glock’s ease with one-handed use, it is also more comfortable for some of the officers with smaller hands.
“They’re awesome,” said Officer Michelle Roberts, who joined the Sandy Springs force seven months ago. “They’re a lot more accurate”
No matter the weapon, Baxter gives his fellow Sandy Springs police officers a glowing review.
“There’s not a person I wouldn’t trust my life to in the Sandy Springs Police Department,” Baxter said. “I’ve trained a lot of people in a lot of agencies and there’s not a soul I wouldn’t go in a door with, back-to-back, beside me or behind me.”
The instructor also said the transition was eased by the cooperation of city staff, the City Council and residents themselves.