Understanding MVPD’s Use Of The AR-15 Rifle

We are always looking for ways to improve our communication and relationship with those who live, work or otherwise enjoy our City, which is why we want to address questions around our use of the AR-15 rifle. Specifically, we want to clarify how and why AR-15s are part of our inventory, which we’ve had since 1995. This is especially pertinent given events in communities across the country and their current dynamics with their respective law enforcement agencies.

Many of you may remember the North Hollywood shoot-out that occurred at a bank in Los Angeles on February 28, 1997. A simple Google search will reveal two bank robbers, armed with assault rifles, were confronted by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in what turned into a shootout overwhelming officers on scene. It took several minutes before specialized units arrived at their location leaving officers to try and subdue the suspects — dressed in heavy body armor — on their own. Six civilians and eleven police officers were wounded during this exchange.


A recent FBI study shows Active Shooter Events by Year is on the increase. Click on the image to view the report in its entirety.

As a result of LAPD’s incident, the law enforcement community realized the need to better prepare our men and women who serve and protect our communities with the right training and equipment. The North Hollywood shoot-out brought to light the fact that our officers and detectives are the first ones to arrive to a critical incident. From active shooters to barricaded and armed suspects, they must act swiftly in a manner that allows them to safely remove those in harm’s way. But they cannot do so if they are injured or killed during this process.

While most of us may associate these incidents with “big city” crime and not Mountain View — a relatively safe community — our police officers have faced dangerous situations with heavily armed criminals. One such incident involved an officer who encountered multiple suspects armed with handguns and an assault rifle just as they were fleeing a robbery. An MVPD officer was shot while our other officers were shot at during the ensuing pursuit. Fortunately, there was no loss of life in this incident and the suspects were apprehended, but it does provide a real life example of why the police department must be prepared for these types of situations to fulfill our mission of keeping Mountain View safe.

For us, the tools not only translate into physical equipment, but more importantly the training and education that goes along with these tools. Here’s an overview of how we break it down:

1. Classroom Training
Training is hugely important to ensure that our  men and women who use various tools and tactics understand their capabilities and, most importantly, the situations in which to deploy them. We require mandatory in-service training on topics ranging from domestic violence to working with the mentally challenged to narcotics investigations where we often bring in a variety of specialists to educate our officers. Officers complete comprehensive classroom instruction on the use of the AR-15 as one part of their required training.


In the same FBI study, location of primary Active Shooter Events were businesses followed by schools. Click on the image to view the report in its entirety.

2. Practical Training
We provide additional training by combining critical skills such as high-speed driving and defensive tactics through scenarios designed to challenge and test an officer. These training sessions are modeled after recent incidents, as well as historical events such as the Columbine High School Shooting. Officers train for decision-making under stressful conditions during live scenarios and with a training simulator. When combined with classroom instruction, exercises provide a realistic and hands-on approach where officers can further practice and refine their skills whether it be at the range or on a motorcycle.

We have spent the better part of the last year completing refresher training to be prepared for active shooter incidents. While some of this involves firearms training, we also cover rescue tactics, trauma first aid and much more. We seek to equip our officers with trauma/first aid kits, protective gear and training to help them prepare for an incident we hope will never occur in Mountain View.

3. FAQ
Are AR-15s part of your inventory?
Yes, and they have been since 1995. Our use of AR-15s replaced our shotguns due, in part, to the AR-15’s accuracy. We have a total of 74 AR-15 rifles to equip our department of over 90 officers assigned to patrol, detectives and other specialty units.

Do you have 20 AR-15s on order?
Yes, we are waiting to receive an additional 20 AR-15s to ensure each of our sworn personnel has access to the same equipment.

When would AR-15s be used?
As mentioned above, we replaced patrol shotguns with AR-15s almost 20 years ago based on its accuracy and being better suited for the environment we work in. Because rifles are more accurate than handguns, officers typically deploy AR-15s if there is any indication that a suspect may be armed. In an active shooter situation, the AR-15 would be a key piece of equipment for responding officers to have. With the rise of active shooter incidents, and the propensity for suspects to arm themselves with high-powered weapons, the rifles are an essential tool that help us protect the community and our officers.

Here are a few examples when we have utilized our AR-15s: barricaded subject on Williams Way and during a pursuit of suspects wanted for a shooting in San Francisco.

Are the AR-15s, or any other equipment purchased through the Federal government’s 1033 program?
Unfortunately, there is a general misconception that we are buying equipment from the government when, in fact, these items are on loan through the 1033 program. To learn more about the 1033 program, go here.

Why is getting AR-15s from the Federal government’s 1033 program beneficial?
It is significantly less expensive and a financially responsible alternative to buying new AR-15s. AR-15s with the necessary modifications would cost about $3,000 apiece if purchased new. Obtaining the AR-15s from the 1033 program costs this department about $800 apiece after we make the necessary modifications to suit our needs.

Is Mountain View Police Department turning into the military?
Absolutely not. While the AR-15 is considered the most popular “sporting” rifle in the country, and available to qualified individuals in the general public, our goal is to ensure the safety of our first responders whose very job is to protect the public. Part of our role is to ensure our first responders have the right equipment whether it be a trauma kit to a less-lethal device, like a Taser. But most importantly, we are fortunate to have a strong relationship with our community, which we will continue to build upon every day. Like the majority of equipment and training we have been entrusted with, these rifles are tools with specific applications and uses. While we hope to never need them, they are at the ready — along with training — to be put to use to protect our City. Your police department remains committed to serving you and will continue to do so with the highest of professional standards.

11 thoughts on “Understanding MVPD’s Use Of The AR-15 Rifle

  1. Michael Mooney

    Plus, the police are responsible for every round fired, and what that round hits, be it the suspect, a citizen, or something else. The standard police shotgun is a short ranged weapon that fires 9 pistol sized pellets that spread out in a widening pattern, making them more dangerous to innocent people nearby. The AR-15 rifle fires only one pellet (or projectile). Thus the AR-15 rifle when fired, is much more accurate at a greater distance, and much safer for innocent uninvolved citizens in the area.

  2. Geoff Thompson

    One of the major issues with the AR-15 vs. shotguns is the carry distance. Carry distance is a big consideration when police fire a weapon. The shorter carry distance of a shotgun is often an advantage in a bad situation. My point is not so much that I think AR-15s are bad, but rather I think it is a mistake to do wholesale replacement of shotguns with AR-15s.

  3. noeffort (@noeffort)

    Well, this is a nice “justification” but that is all that it is… This to me is very disturbing, especially since any lay person knows that “accuracy” is a most errant adjective to describe the difference between an AR-15 and a shotgun. It is, by definition, misleading.

    An AR-15 may be considered more “accurate” than a shotgun, but you must use the qualifier “At Range”. And yes, of course a “rifle” is by definition more accurate than a shotgun. HOwever, this is not the argument that has been used for years and years and years. “Stopping power” is the issue at hand because I, nor ANYONE who is a resident of MV will ever want a police officer shooting “at range”, even if the single shot of an AR-15 is more accurate. I don’t want you to be able to KILL a SUSPECT <– key word there, meaning that in Ferguson and as in every town, your job is serve and protect the safety of all citizens. NOT just the ones YOU decide to protect.

    This is the crux of the outcry (and WILL eventually lead to the eventual ratcheting back down of the militarization of our police forces).

    A shotgun is a crowd control weapon, with normally less than lethal results unless point blank, and/or instead used with wooden/rubber projectiles. Take also into consideration you have tasers, and handguns you have more than enough weapons to stop a SUSPECT. But even if a SUSPECT robs or steals a car, or a forty ounce beer; none of those mean that the SUSPECT, even if it IS the actual perpetrator deserves to be shot with a MILITARY ASSAULT weapon.

    Use the tools you already have had in the past; because I can guarantee you; we will be coming for YOUR guns…, see you at the next Committee meeting!

  4. noeffort (@noeffort)

    Oh, and I forgot… you should instead be training the most important weapon of the police force – your mind! Granted, Luckily, we have as of yet to hear of an officer involved killing in MV (when was the last one? I cannot recall).

    *Unfortunately, this page does not allow edits, so to add to my above comment the difference between the need and desire of an assault weapon over a shotgun is also silly because as I alluded to, you are being paid to get close enough to figure out if a perp is just a perp, or if he/she is a deranged killer who gives you absolutely ZERO option other than to shoot him. If you have to get close to them to determine if that’s the case, you are already too close for an AR-15, and actually your accuracy diminishes the closer you get. The shotgun is far superior.

    Now, if and ONLY if you are trying to justify the use of assault weapons against other actively engaged perpetrators who also are using assault weapons.. then please by all means, have at it… but I think 110 AR-15’s might be considered in that definition as “OVERKILL” <– and I mean to use that word very distinctly!!!

    1. Victor Lyon

      There is some confusion here. “Assault rifles” have acquired a rep as satanic tools of death, but the concept originated in WWII with the German tactic of fire suppression from high-volume fire, followed by armor, in urban (European city) warfare. The average trooper could carry a lot more 5.56mm than 7.62mm ammunition. They are just rifles like any others, though easier to control from the lighter recoil.

      The police department needs flexibility. I’m not sure how you figure, but shotguns are by no means “non-lethal”, they are devastating weapons that were issued to Marines in many war theatres. They are a tool like any other firearm. God willing, fire suppression will not be a job for the MVPD, but the AR-15 will work for this, and the easily fragmented round will limit ricochet damage. I would hope that somebody has a couple of scoped M-14s, or AR-10s, FALs, or other 7.62mm arms for when they really need to reach out to touch somebody.

      1. noeffort (@noeffort)

        You are very correct, and I am indeed prone to hyperbole: in regards to shotgun’s lethality, if used at very close range and depending upon the shot. But it is most assuredly more a breaching/close range tool vs. the AR-15, right? We can agree on that much.

        And yes, I agree they shouldn’t be expected to hold off these guys… (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Hollywood_shootout). They should have options available (meaning in the trunk of, or securely locked up in a SWAT locker) not as their primary or dash mounted solution).

        I’m not quite sure where the disconnect began; but the plain and simple fact is that the scenario that is used as the illustration (which is a very seldomly seen scenario as opposed to a single shooter who may or may not be intending to shoot the officer or a citizen). The point to exhaust all non-lethal options FIRST. That training, and the officer’s brain, are the most indispensable tool in that arsenal.

        But you’re arguing the premise and not the conclusion. Think of your very own words of your choosing: “War theatre”, “Fire suppression”. That’s what I’m arguing about; the mentality today. Yes, if and when there is a situation where there is zero ambiguity of guilt/commission in progress where citizens are in danger from a crazy individual(s). And yes, (I am not horrified) perhaps even a sniper’s rifle will be justified at some point. But that’s what SWAT is for; or maybe a few well heeled TAC-teams… but we don’t need 110 AR’s, one each in every service vehicle. San Mateo PD already lost at least one.

        I agree fully with Peggy’s comment.

        Nothing will ever make an officer’s job safe; plainly put. Right? Again, we can all agree on that. But what’s next? RPG’s because now all the bad guys realize they are going to now have to out-gun an AR-15 toting MVPD force?

        Step back for a second, take off your police cap and put on the citizen cap for a sec… this is Mountain View. But imagine if suddenly Google goes tits up, and several other large tech firms leave and we have sudden plummeting in home prices and all goes to hell in a handbasket, and now MV has become the murder capital just like other townships near us had to deal with…, what is it that turned EPA around? Was is issuing more lethal guns? No, it was a concerted, well thought out approach to policing that brought at least a semblance of control to a nutty late 80’s-90’s along the east bayshore 101 corridor. It was community outreach and good ol’ fashioned detective work by the REDTeam, not the types of guns being used that stemmed the tide. Having more officers on the ground, gaining the community trust by getting closer, not retreating with less officers and longer reaching guns.

    2. Michael Mooney

      I was an MVPD officer for 25 years, 1986-2011. Twice, officers were forced to defend themselves or others from death or serious harm by using lethal force on the suspects, resulting in the death of both of them. Once in 1990, and again in the mid 90’s. One suspect was shot and killed by a MVPD sniper (using, oh horrors!, a rifle), and the other suspect was shot and killed by an officer using a handgun. Both times the officers were cleared by a Grand Jury resulting in “no true bill”, meaning the shooting was justified.

  5. Brian Geer

    Well done! Very timely and professional. As a retired member of the DA’s SOG unit assigned to witness protection, I was aware of the validity of AR-15 use but am sensitive to the public’s perception.

    As for the”militarization” of police, all the critics have to do is imagine an incident like North Hollywood in good ol’ MV to see the need. What about terrorism right here instead of just the evening news?!

  6. Peggy Murphy

    I definitely do not think that the MV police should be using assault rifles except in VERY specific, dangerous cases. They should not be used as a matter of course.
    I understand the need if a specific, active shooter scenario, but these weapons should not be routinely in use.
    Beefing up community policing is a much better more effective and police-like reaction than getting assault rifles.

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