Johnston County

Police in Johnston armed with basics

Clayton Police Capt. Jon Gerrell wears the standard officer’s tool belt.
Clayton Police Capt. Jon Gerrell wears the standard officer’s tool belt. jdjackson@newsobserver.com

Ideally, police weapons reside in a locked cabinet, to be used only in emergencies.

In Johnston County, what’s in those cabinets varies by the size of the police force, ranging from standard sidearms to paramilitary gear and vehicles.

When the Dallas Police Department earlier this month used a bomb attached to a robot to defuse a standoff, it became clear that police forces in the United State pack more than sidearms and pepper spray. No law-enforcement agency in Johnston County has a bomb-toting robot, but Clayton Police Chief Wayne Bridges says his department does have a robot, among other things.

“The closest thing we have is for the tactical team, a little robot with a camera that can be thrown into a room and driven around,” Bridges said. “We don’t have any C4.”

Bridges said equipping the Clayton Police Department is different from outfitting Dallas or even Raleigh, but the mission is the same: being prepared for a worst-case scenario.

“In the simplest terms, you need to be able to meet whatever force you encounter with more force,” Bridges said. “Meet and hopefully exceed. Anything that could happen in Dallas could happen here, but the likelihood is somewhat less, a good deal less.”

Clayton’s arsenal consists of 43 officer-assigned Smith & Wesson .45-caliber handguns, 35 Remington shotguns, 17 assault rifles of several makes and one Mossberg shotgun. In the armory are six more handguns; four more shotguns, including two designed to fire beanbag rounds; two Winchester rifles; one Venom sniper rifle; and one miniature Ruger pistol.

The department is switching out its sidearms this year, replacing the Smith & Wesson for the Glock 17, so the armory also includes 44 Glock 17’s and six Glock 19’s.

Bridges said the department has a special-response team, similar to a SWAT team, that has heavy-duty ballistic vests, shields and special lighting.

“We’re very well equipped,” Bridges said. “We have what we need to complete our duties.”

According to an inventory provided by Smithfield Police Capt. R.K. Powell, Smithfield’s arsenal is similar to Clayton’s. Smithfield has 44 SIG Sauer .45-caliber pistols as officers’ sidearms, plus 16 Colt rifles, 20 Remington pump-action shotguns and 44 Tasers.

“The biggest thing we think about is officer safety and protection of the public,” Powell said.

The biggest difference between how larger cities and small-town forces equip themselves, Powell said, is the budget of the department.

Johnston County towns can call on the sheriff’s office if they need greater manpower or resources, Bridges and Powell said. County deputies carry .45-caliber Glock pistols and Smith & Wesson rifles, while detectives carry 9mm Glocks. But the sheriff’s office also has a SWAT team and recently purchased an armored Bearcat response and rescue vehicle.

“As sheriff it is my responsibility to provide the equipment necessary to protect the deputies, peacekeepers, that are putting their lives on the line in dangerous situations to protect our citizens,” Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.

Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson

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