Here's why all police need a patrol rifle

We need to take our equipment and training to the next level in order to be a step above everyone else when it comes to our rifle skills

With all the current attacks on law enforcement, some would say that "times sure have changed" — but they haven’t. There’s always been this underlying disdain for law enforcement, and not just by the criminal element within our society. We’ve all dealt with "respectable people" who turn into vicious animals given the right stimuli. Whether that be drugs, alcohol, or just getting a speeding citation. 

The homeowner doesn’t curse the firefighter who comes to put out the fire. How many of you have been cursed out by the homeowner who called to make a complaint against someone else? How many of you have had to lock up the complainant? I’m guessing probably more times than you can remember. 

After Sept. 11 we were all heroes and people somewhat respected law enforcement, but that faded quickly, just like it always does. There have been other times in our history where we’ve been on top, but the public soon forgot about us and what we stand for. After all, it’s called a thankless job for a reason. 

Remembering history
This is not the first time in our history we’ve faced a criminal element that’s been well organized, well-funded, well-armed with heavy duty firepower, and hell bent on harming law enforcement. 

Go back to the early 1930s when we faced the likes of Bonnie and Clyde, and "Machine Gun Kelly." For Bonnie and Clyde the weapon of choice was the BAR — a Browning automatic rifle. For "Machine Gun Kelly," it was the Thompson machine gun. These criminals are still idolized and romanticized to this day, but can you recall the names of the officers murdered by Bonnie and Clyde? In case you were wondering they were, Eugene C. Moore, Holloway D. Murphy, and Edward B. Wheeler.  

Back then law enforcement saw a need to at least match the firepower of these gangsters by adopting the same firearms used against officers. Agencies all across this country went out and purchased BARs, and Tommy guns, to try and give their officers a fighting chance. It was a BAR that helped bring down Bonnie and Clyde. Some departments still have their old Tommy guns in their armories, or on display in the department.    

We also faced well-armed, well-funded, well organized, and violent criminals in the 1980s with the rise of crack cocaine. Law enforcement was getting outgunned on the streets of our inner cities, so we had to upgrade our old six shooters to semi-automatic handguns, to give us a fighting chance. During this same period some agencies, big and small, purchased MP5s and other sub-guns for their officers and tactical teams. Some tactical teams in smaller agencies were born in the 1980s out of necessity to deal with these well-armed drug gangs that were infiltrating and operating in their communities.   

After the 1997 North Hollywood shoot-out, in which two heavily armed and armored bank robbers were eventually killed after an extended gunbattle, agencies across the country saw a need for the patrol rifle. Shortly after, departments across the country started purchasing rifles for their officers. Some other agencies were lucky enough to be able to obtain rifles through the government’s DRMO program. Once again we saw a need for better firepower and we filled that need. 

The need for patrol rifles
The time has come once again for us to fill a need, and that need is a patrol rifle for every unit, and for every officer who goes out the door. Being able to predict when and where the next ambush-style attack against law enforcement is going to happen is next to impossible. The same is true for the next San Bernardino-style terrorist attack. 

Because we can’t predict when and where these violent criminals — armed with heavy duty firepower — will strike next, we need to be prepared for them at all times. That means every officer, regardless of rank, title, or position, needs to have a patrol rifle available to them at all times, and they need to be trained in the proper use of it. 

We, as law enforcement officers, need to adopt the same mindset as that of the Marine Corps when it comes to job titles. In the Marine Corps, everyone, regardless of rank, is a rifleman first and foremost. The "job" he does in the Marines comes second. We’re civilian law enforcement, so our "job" to protect and serve comes first, but we need to have the mindset that each and every one of us is also a rifleman. We need to be equipped and trained as such.

As law enforcement officers, we don’t ever want to be outgunned or out trained. We saw in Baton Rouge and Dallas that some of these criminals can be former military who possess military training. The possibility of encountering a terrorist, who has had some formal training from a foreign source, is also real. We need to take our training to the next level, to be a step above everyone else when it comes to our rifle skills. 

That training needs to include urban rifle skills. The 300-yard shot on the range is nice, but the realities of the street dictate that we learn to use the patrol rifle in close quarters. The reality of the street is that officer involved shootings, even those involving rifles/long guns, happen at much smaller distances. 

Think about this for a minute. The last time you pulled your patrol rifle out of your car, was it for a 300-yard shot, in the dark, where you could barely make out the perpetrator? Or where you involved in a vehicle stop where the distance was a few car lengths, if that? Maybe you were entering a building, where the distance was in feet, not yards. 

Our training needs to reflect the realities of the street. We need to be able to shoot accurately while moving. We need to be able to identify cover, and how to properly use it with a rifle, because in some cases it’s different from using cover with your handgun. Every officer needs to be trained in single officer, two man, and multiple officer movement and tactics. 

As we saw in Dallas, you need to go on the offensive to either take out the bad guy, or at least pin him down until other resources arrive. Those other resources could mean additional personnel, a sniper, an armored vehicle, or in the case of Dallas, a robot equipped with an explosive device. Either way, you have to take the fight to the bad guy, especially if the bad guy’s actions demonstrate that he’s hell bent on taking out as many civilians or law enforcement officers as he can. 

Whether facing a lone gunman, or multiple terrorists, they are the same types of people we’ve faced before. The winds haven’t changed; it’s the same harsh wind that’s been blowing in our faces all along. We’ve dealt with it in the past, and we’ll deal with it again in the future. 

We just need to recognize the threat so we can better arm and better train our officers. We also need to understand now, more than ever, we are all riflemen. 

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