In response to a sense that criminals are better armed than law enforcement officers, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey announced today that he will allow officers the option of upgrading to larger-caliber handguns.

At a news conference this afternoon, the commissioner said that officers would have the option move up to a .40-caliber or a .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol. The department will continue to issue 9 mm Glocks, a slightly less powerful handgun.

The officers will have to be trained and certified in using the new guns before they can use them on duty, said Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan, head of the department's training bureau.

Officers who elect to use the new guns will have to pay for them on their own. At discounted rates for law-enforcement officers, the new models will cost in excess of $400.

The aim of the new policy is to allow officers more choices of guns that they are comfortable using, said Sullivan.

The department has buried four officers this year, two of whom were killed by gunfire. Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was killed in May by a gunman armed with an SKS assault rifle, and Officer Patrick McDonald was killed in September by a felon armed with a .45-caliber pistol.

Contact staff writer Andrew Maykuth at 215-854-2947 or amaykuth@phillynews.com.