The weapons, up until now reserved for elite intervention forces, will allow members of certain police units “to intervene as fast as possible to reinforce the first patrols, notably when we are confronted with mass killings,” said the minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
“Some of the criminals you are confronted with no longer hesitate to use heavy weapons against you, and you must be equipped with the means to fire back, and adequate protection,” Cazeneuve told officers at a Parisian police station.
The anti-criminal (BAC) police units, who most often operate in plain clothes, will be given 204 Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifles, some 1,800 bullet proof vests and 241 shields that are resistant to Kalashnikov bullets.
The new equipment, which also includes Taser guns and other items, is worth €17 million ($18 million).
Last week Cazeneuve revealed that he wants French police outside of the main cities to be better equipped too. He said he plans for officers to be able to respond to a terror attack within 20 minutes – no matter where in France the attack may occur.
The boosting of police capability comes after jihadist gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide bombers attacked a concert hall and several restaurants and cafes around Paris on November 13th, killing 130 and leaving hundreds injured.
A member of the BAC police units – armed only with a handgun – was the first to arrive on scene at the Bataclan concert hall where he shot dead one of the jihadists who killed 90 people during a show.
However he was forced to retreat and await specialized police officers as he was not sufficiently equipped against the two attackers still alive in the building.
The devastating attack saw authorities put in place a state of emergency which has been extended until the end of May.