Training is the single most important thing to consider when setting policy for rifles, Marrs emphasizes. Department policy may place the rifles on the use-of-force continuum but policy does not — nor should it — dictate specific instances in which the rifle may be used. That, he says, is a training issue.
"A policy that is too restrictive, even when its intent is to protect the department from liability, could actually hinder officers because they might not be able to deploy the correct weapon for the situation," he says. "There is no way to foresee every situation an officer is going to be in so you need to keep the policy loose and allow officers to rely on their training."
As the criminal climate evolves, it is critical that officers stay a step ahead of the bad guy. Besides matching wits and wills, officers also must match firepower to compete; a rifle puts them on equal footing with today's gun-wielding criminals.
"You always want to be able to present the amount of force necessary to seize hold of a situation," Bellows says. "But you can't do that if your firepower is inadequate when compared to what you're being challenged with."