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.
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.
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.
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.
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.