Equipping Motor Officers with Rifles
Summary & Limitations
There is very little, if any, scholarly research available on the general benefit of patrol rifles, much less on motor officers’ use of rifles specifically. Much of the available literature is anecdotal, at best. However, if the scope of the research question is narrowed to the benefit of decreased response times to Active Shooter Events (ASE), as the requestor has proposed, the amount literature becomes slightly more robust. The below response to this research request includes short summaries of two articles and/or book chapters that speak to the importance of response time in ASE, the role of rifles in ASE, as well as a short list of a few agencies who have equipped motor officers with rifles. Two agencies, Osceola County and Manhattan Beach provide insight as to the possible cost of such programs. Based on the reading, a list of possible citizen questions has also been included for consideration, should this be a project pursued with City Officials.
Bend Police Department (Oregon)
Manhattan Beach Police Department (California) – Staff Report / Proposal to City Council
- Equipment: Seven AR-15 & 7 Weapon racks
- Cost: $13,125.00, paid for via asset forfeiture funds
Osceola County Sheriff’s Office (Florida)
- Equipment: Rifles and a custom weapon mount designed and manufactured by agency.
- Cost: Minimal
- Training: Motor-specific tactical rifle training
Santa Barbara Police Department (California)
- Equipment: Eight Colt AR-15 rifles
- Cost: $2,950/each paid for with funds raised by Santa Barbara Police Foundation
- Mentions that Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office already equips their motor officers with carbine rifles.
Blair, John P., and M. Hunter Martaindale. United States active shooter events from 2000 to 2010: Training and equipment implications. San Marcos, TX: Texas State University, 2013.
This article provides a summary of research presented in the book, Active Shooter Events and Response, including a descriptive study of ASE data from the years 2000 to 2010. Eighty-four events were identified by the researchers using the following definition: “an [ASE] involved one or more persons engaged in killing or attempting to kill multiple people in an area (or areas) occupied by multiple unrelated individuals. At least one of the victims must be unrelated to the shooter[s].” Fifty-one percent of these events did not conclude until after police arrived and of these, approximately half were ended by the shooter (surrender or suicide). This is illustrated by the authors in the figure below.
With this information, the authors outline a number of training and equipment implications, including the use of rifles. The authors specifically call attention to two points – the accuracy of the rifle, as well as the deadliness of the rifle, citing a 1997 bank robbery where shooters could not be neutralized for almost 20 minutes while officers waited for a SWAT team to arise.
Blair, John P., et al. Active shooter events and response. CRC Press, 2013.
Up to and including the shooting at Columbine High School, police department policies commonly directed initial responding officers to wait for a specialized team to arrive prior to entering and engaging in an ASE. It was after this incident and the outcry that followed that the paradigm began to shift, enabling responding officers to provide a more immediate response. This book uses the data found in the research summarized above to offer a best practice for responding to ASE. The authors assert that a rifle is a more accurate weapon than the standard-issued handgun, reducing the threat to innocents in the area of the incident, and providing a more effective way of neutralizing the intended target. They assert that this is especially true in situations where a larger distance is between the officer and the shooter, such as school hallways and outdoor scenes. Additionally, the case is made that rifles are a better match for the few ASE during which shooters wear body armor.
Questions to Consider:
- Taking into consideration the percentage of ASE that are resolved by police use of force, what is the cost-benefit of purchasing the rifles and all associated mounting and locking accessories?
- In what other situations would motor officers need to use these rifles?
- Why does the agency need more rifles, if all patrol cars have them?
- What is being done to mitigate the risks of an ASE happening in the first place?