IMPD balancing firepower with power of communication

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Ten years after the shooting death of Indianapolis police officer Jake Laird, Metro Police is still trying to find the balance between arming officers and creating relationships with the community.

Four other officers were wounded in the shootout with a heavily-armed man on the city's south side in 2004. The tragic incident changed lives and changed police policy.

Even the sound of a door slamming brings back bad memories for Bonnie Rogers, who lives near Gimber Street and Dietz Street on the south side of Indianapolis.

"It was not fun. I don't know how long we laid on the floor, how long that went on. I mean, it seemed like forever," said Rogers, who lived through the gun battle that claimed the life of Officer Laird.

A deranged man with an SKS rifle opened fire. He was only stopped after one of the officers, a member of the SWAT team, used an AR-15 to shoot and kill the gunman.

Laird's death marked a turning point for Indianapolis' police department. Since 2005, hundreds of officers have been armed with AR-15s - the civilian version of a military M-16.

"You want to avoid those situations of getting your patrol rifle out," explained IMPD Officer Rafael Diaz. "It's just another tool we have available to us."

A tool that's rarely used.

Diaz was issued a rifle while patrolling the East District. Now a department spokesman, he says another critical tool is community policing - the concept of getting to know people and business owners in each beat.

"So that we can work together and help solve some of the problems that some of these neighborhoods have and that way we can keep the communication lines open," explained Diaz.

But sometimes, force is necessary.

"I was scared. I was really scared," said Rogers, remembering the night her neighborhood was shot up.

And while the city paid a high price, Rogers is glad a lesson was learned and now officers are more heavily armed.

"I want 'em to be able to protect us if we need it," she said.

Officers who are issued AR-15s initially receive a week of training, then eight hours of training every year.