Parlier police armed with M-16's

FRESNO, Calif.

A government program designed to supply local law enforcement with surplus military weapons is basically loaning the M-16's to Parlier police. The chief says he needs the guns to compete with the stockpile of high-powered rifles already in the hands of criminals.

The M-16's are locked up for now, but are next to be added to Parlier police officers' arsenal of defense weapons. "Something like this, it's huge," said Parlier Police Chief David Cerda. "It's a ray of light in a dark cloud."

Chief Cerda says the guns are an absolute necessity. Parlier streets are increasingly dangerous. Officers never know what they'll face when dealing with suspects especially gang members.

"The firepower that's out on the streets is phenomenal," the chief said. "It's prolific with gang members. Our police department was shot up with an assault rifle; it was an ak-47 that was used to shoot up this police department."

In May 2012 police say a man shot up the department's headquarters with 30 rounds of ammunition, nearly striking an officer standing outside the building.

But, not everyone is on board with local law enforcement using military-style weapons. We spoke with the author of "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State." The book chronicles incidents of excessive force by militarized departments.

"In a lot of the situations we're seeing across the country at the Rutherford Institute, police say they need these weapons and generally they don't need them. What we're seeing is our citizens are getting raided, shot, it's a growing trend," said author John Whitehead.

Parlier police will not being using anything military other than the M-16's. Chief Cerda says being heavily armed is the only way for his 10 full-time officers to keep the city of 14,000 safe.

Each officer who will be using the weapons still needs to go through a three-day training program. They have to pass a shooting and written test with a hundred percent accuracy before being issued the M-16. Since the department is short staffed the training will happen in phases over the next few weeks.

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