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In case you hadn’t noticed, the U.S. has too many cops (and not enough armed citizens). What’s more, the police have become militarized. Like a gun on the wall at the beginning of a play, the po-po’s mil-spec toys are destined for use, whether they should be or not. So when I read in that “The Fort Smith Board of Directors voted in its Tuesday (July 5) meeting to purchase six new Segway patrollers and 115 new rifles for the city police department,” I was inherently suspicious. Reading further, my hackles rose. “The rifles, manufactured by Rock River Arms, will cost $104,716.12 and will be temporarily paid for out of the Federal Asset Forfeiture (FAF) account . . .

Most of the rifles will be owned by the officers who use them, and they will reimburse the FAF account for the full price over a 12-month period.

For one thing, full price ≠ gun dealer price. Second, I’m not comfortable with the police treating the FAF account as their own private slush fund. Again, it is entirely possible to “over-equip” a police department.

Consider it done. As TTAG reported, thanks to Bush-era-and-beyond War on Drugs funding, some 90 percent of U.S. cities with more than 50k inhabitants (with at least 100 police officers) have a full-on SWAT team. Clearly, AR-mania is sweeping the nation’s law enforcement agencies.

The old refrain—“we don’t want the cops to be out-gunned by the bad guys”—is based on anecdotal evidence (e.g. the infamous LA bank shootout), rather than statistical proof. In this case, no one stopped to wonder if every Fort Smith cop needs an AR. The “debate” focused on why every officer needs his own AR.

Director Phillip Merry asked Lindsey why officers needed to own their rifles. Lindsey said it was because each rifle must be sighted specifically for the person who will use it, meaning that officers sharing rifles would be impractical. Lindsey also stressed that despite officers owning their rifles, they will use them only for police business.

So they’ll be stored at the station, right? No officer will take “their” rifle home. Correct? If their shift ends and they have an AR in the car, they’ll RTB, make the weapon safe and store the rifle in the police armory. Yes? Can you put that in writing please?

The police department already owns 19 Rock River rifles, but most officers are armed with shotguns. Lindsey told the Board that officers rarely use their shotguns because the weapons are unwieldy and can cause a wide range of damage.

Yeah, who needs a blunderbuss? Just wondering: exactly how often do Fort Smith cops reach for their shotgun? Exactly when was the shotgun found wanting? That aside, I wondered about the whole sighting-in excuse. As a handgun guy, I asked our main Chris Dumm to switch on our BS detector on our behalf. Here’s Chris’s take:

“Different shooters will often shoot the same rifle to different points of impact. Each of us will grip the same rifle in a slightly different way, with a slightly different cheek-weld and sight picture, and each of us will hold the rifle slightly differently as the recoil lifts the barrel and sends the shot downrange.

This effect is more pronounced with iron sights than with optics, and is much less noticeable with pistols because of the shorter ranges typically involved. Even so, our GIs and Marines are each taught to figure out how to zero-in any new M16A2 service rifle without firing a shot.

Basically, the shooter centers the front and rear sights and shoots two groups to see where the rifle shoots for him or her. Then they adjust the rear sights until their hits are centered on the target, and they memorize how many ticks up, down, left or right were needed to move their shots onto the point of aim.  Their instructors will ask them what their zero is, and they’ll have to recite “Up Two Right Twelve” or whatever.

Any time they pick up and shoot a different M16A2 after that, they can center the sights and perform their memorized adjustments to put their shots (in theory) right on the money, without firing a single shot. It works better in theory than in practice, because each M16A2 is also very slightly different from another, but it does help.

Scoped rifles are not as susceptible to these variables as iron-sighted rifles, because many of the variables (eye focus, sight picture) are eliminated when the scope puts the target and the aiming reticule in the same focal plane.

So, yes, this Lindsey fellow is correct that each officer could have ‘his’ or ‘her’ own patrol carbine. But this doesn’t mean that the officer should have one. Or that they should purchase their own carbine.

There’s no reason the department can’t purchase them and issue a particular rifle to a particular officer, just like the military does. Or, as Foghorn points out below, all the weapons can be zeroed identically, with officers trained to compensate as needed.

I suspect there might be some budgetary hocus-pocus involved here, such as restricted grant funding that can only be spent on officers’ salaries and not on ‘equipment.’  These restricted funds can still be used to buy nice Rock River ARs if the department gives each officer an $1100 raise, and then requires them to purchase their own ‘personal’ approved carbine (required to be an $1100 Rock River) for duty use.”

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  1. See how this was funded? Through forfeiture accounts. It’s hard to imagine a system with more potential for abuse. It’s like putting police officers on commission — you keep what you kill.

  2. @magoo

    Broken clocks are right twice a day.

    @robert farago

    Why are you anti-cop? Don’t you know it’s called freedom when 1/20 cars on the road are police cruisers?

  3. “Too many cops”? Call 911 in rural Vermont at 3:00 am sometime. I’m a night shift EMT, and have waited 20 minutes for a trooper to arrive before going into a house after a domestic.

    • Same goes for rural RI. And rural anywhere, especially at 3am. Meanwhile, the cities are lousy with cops who never get out of their cars.

      Has it ever been different? This is one big ass country.

  4. I have to admit we are short on State Troopers here in SC. The state won’t raise the salaries to at least be even with deputies, so Troopers leave or just go straight to a Sheriff’s department. Funny that they spent who knows how much to change from Glock .40’s to .45 GAP. Referring to the rifles. There are department prices. There are individual officer prices. Of course the departments get a better discount than the officer’s discount. On top of the department discounts, there is no Federal Excise Tax. Officers have to pay it, but agencies are exempt. I can’t help but wonder if the officers are getting that extra bargain. You would be surprised at how much less agencies pay. I’m all for cops getting gear, I serve only to share my limited knowledge!

    • If we axed the ATF, there’d be $1.4 billion sloshing around. Not to say that wouldn’t disappear down a police pension-shaped rathole. Cause you know it would.

  5. Come now Robert, Police are citizens first, leos second. Every citizen has a right to own an AR. We should be like the Swiss and mandate every person of military age who is otherwise qualified to own a firearm, possess and be proficient with the standard military rifle. M-16a4s for all!

    • I’m assuming semi auto. I’ve never heard of a dept issuing full auto to their normal patrol officers.

    • In 2008 the Chicago Police Department was thinking about issuing fully automatic military rifiles (M-4s) because the rate of violent death in the future President’s old State Senate district was higher on several successive weekends than in Baghdad.

  6. Curiously enough, I live a stone’s throw from Fort Smith. Money spent on cloning Bass Reeves would be better spent.

  7. I’m not convinced that EVERYONE needs their own rifle.

    If the police department mandated a standard zero distance and everyone trained the same way with identical rifles then there would be no reason to buy so many. Not every police officer needs to own their service pistol, why should rifles be any different?

  8. Heck, that’s just the price of the rifle. You’ll need to add in the cost of the EOtech sights, and the streamlights, the tactical slings, and the bayonets and by the time they add all the crap, they are just as cumbersome as a shotty…and less effective. But it makes them feel like “Operators.”

  9. What is inherently wrong with arming the police force with another set of tools they could use if needed. The Officers will buy the guns from the dept., so the fund is reimbursed. Because the officers would be buying the rifles from the dept. it is possible at the end of their shift, or more likely whenever they leave the dept., they would be taking their rifle home with them. To answer your question about when the officers take their shotguns with them instead of rifles, that depends on the way in which the Fort Smith Police department serves its high risk warrants. The local Sheriff’s department, may use the Fort Smith entry team to serve high risk warrants so the team member assigned to do the entry may be the one carrying the shotgun, that position may rotate in which case all of the members on that team may need to have a shotgun. I think what you also are forgetting is that the dept. may give each member a weapons stipend and that could be how the dept. plans to get paid. I think this is a storm in a tea kettle post.

  10. I don’t have a problem with the officers switching from shotguns to carbines. FBI studies have shown the 5.56×45 round is actually safer in urban environments than even the officer’s duty pistols.

    Now if the Fort Smith PD would allow concerned citizens to piggyback on their purchase for their own defense I’d be all for the entire program.

  11. Leos should not be able to have any weapons and/or training that is restricted to the general public. The laws of the state should apply to them as it does to us – no difference. When certain people get gun rights over others, they are not LE anymore, they are soldiers.

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