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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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Patrol

Police Rifles: Why We Carry What We Do

Most coverage I have seen in a post-Ferguson world focuses on the "stuff" that the police have without examining the substantive benchmarks of what makes a department worthy of public confidence.

October 10, 2014  |  by Michael C. Koval

Chief Michael C. Koval of the Madison (Wis.) Police Department recently wrote a post on his blog in response to commentary in a local newspaper regarding whether police need AR-15s. He presents his perspective as a law enforcement officer. Below is the post in its entirety.

In a recent opinion commentary submitted by a guest in a local newspaper, a number of issues are raised (related to whether police need AR-15's) that compel me to provide our community with a different perspective. A perspective that is coming from a career police officer of over 30 years; and now I live a life that is ever-apprehensive should the phone ring bearing bad news about one of my 450 officers. As Chief of the Madison Police Department, I have to do everything in my power to field a force that respects, communicates, collaborates, and earns the trust of the citizens we have pledged to serve. But it is equally important to me that each and every one of my officers returns home safely to their families after another day of selfless service.

The most prominent theme in the piece authored by the guest columnist decries the "needs" of the Madison Police Department for taking prudent steps to keep our workforce safe with the tools and technology that are sometimes necessary as a means of keeping citizens and cops out of harm's way. I, too, have criticized the "militarization" of policing in general, and of my own Department, at times. But my frame of reference is calling out those instances where agencies or departments have minimized their officers' relational skills, compromised on sacred trusts or values, or undermined constitutional limitations that are rightfully placed upon the police. Those departments that are more intrigued with tactical resolutions, where the force of the police (both legally as well as physically) is the overriding answer to all of our questions are casting a pall on those of us who took a pledge to uphold the rights of others. The public needs (and I demand) police officers who are more compassionate, can build empathy, are adept communicators, are resourceful problem solvers, and strive for resolutions that explore alternatives to ticketing and arresting away whatever challenges stand in our way.

Most coverage I have seen in a post-Ferguson world focuses on the "stuff" that the police have (i.e., armored rescue vehicles, rifles, hard gear, etc.) without examining the substantive benchmarks of what makes a Department worthy of public confidence: it's the personnel you hire, the width and breadth of the training you provide, the Department's policies and procedures in using the equipment, the leadership that is demonstrated and the trust that is built working with and for the community.

We have an armored RESCUE vehicle. I'm not returning it. I am convinced this vehicle gives us the capacity to save lives and that is why it was acquired in the first place. We have had rifles securely locked in squad cars for over ten years. We are not shelving them. In a United States that now averages an active shooter every 30 days, I am going to ensure that we have the type of weapon that can be readily trained on, has remarkable accuracy, and allows greater distance between us and a pointed gun in our direction. Both of these items are tools that have specific applications under a limited set of circumstances. Unless or until MPD has demonstrated a wholly inappropriate response using either of these items, I would ask that you trust our leadership in making decisions on their use.

As a kid growing up, I can vividly recall Sheriff Andy Taylor. I remembered that the Sheriff never carried a sidearm and always used his wit and southern charm to resolve just about anything. Alas, this is not the days of my childhood; more than 11,000 people were killed in firearm homicides in the United States (according to figures taken from 2011, the most current data available). This reflects more fatalities than all of the U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan over more than ten years of combat! A sign, unfortunately, of the times...

There are more than 300 million firearms in the United States. Any eligible citizen can purchase the same rifle we have - an AR-15 (and many do: there are an estimated 2.5 million AR-15 variants owned by civilians in our country). As Chief, I have an obligation to provide my officers with the tools and resources they need to do their job safely. This is no minor task; since August, thirteen officers have died in the line of duty in the United States. Eighty-five have died so far this year. 60,000 officers are assaulted every year; 15,000 are injured.

I also have the ethical and legal compulsion to ensure that my officers are well-trained and understand policy, procedures, and restraint. I take both mandates seriously, which is why the rifles are staying and the procedures for their use will be followed.

In closing, please refrain from "defining" a Department like mine by the equipment or vehicles that we have. In my opinion, that misses the point. I have seen the grainy black-and-white images of the Deep South in the 1950's and 1960's reflecting some of the most horrific examples of policing...and they managed to look awful without rifles, armored vehicles or body armor! Judge us on our stated goals and philosophy, our professionalism, our training emphasis, our values and our community engagement. This is what defines the policing in our community and I am blessed to lead the MPD!


Comments (20)

Displaying 1 - 20 of 20

132&Bush @ 10/10/2014 6:19 PM

Honestly I think it was pretty wishy washy. What he needs to have said is that given North Hollywood, Mumbai, Narobi, Columbi etc. police anywhere in this country need expect to come against a situation where someone is going to be shooting one heck of a lot of bullets at them. He needs to asks he critics what are they going to say a day after an incident if the disarm the police.

Concerned Citizen @ 10/10/2014 9:33 PM

It would be nice for a Police Chief of a Major City or other LEOs, to address the the "Informed Public" about Marshal Law, and the Police State. Yes the N. Hollywood shootout was bad, and during the 90s someone Stole a Tank in San Diego. There are Legitimate threats from Drug Cartels. But there is No reason to Disarm Law Abiding Citizens. People minding their own business aren't the ones creating the Riots and fanning the flames of hate against LEOs. As in Ferguson Mo.

While I don't mind M-RAPS, L-RADS and other hardware against "The Bad Guys". Who's to say that supporting The Constitution, and Rule of Law won't make me a "Bad Guy" in the Future. Or anyone who believes in Conspiracy Theory? What will the LEO community do then? Support the same Gov. who throws them to the wolves? In the name of Political Correctness and Multiculturalism? Leo's have the right to bear arms along with Law Abiding citizens. Bear arms and >AMMO.<

Capt. Crunch @ 10/11/2014 8:25 AM

Very simple to do the right job you need the right tools. You don't want to be caught with your pants down.

Jack Betz @ 10/11/2014 9:17 AM

Sheriff Taylor had writer that made sure the person he was in conflict with did not kill him. I don't know of any real cops that do.

Hal Campbell @ 10/11/2014 11:52 AM

As a retired officer with 38 years of service I can attest to the validity of the Chief's main theme, protect his officers and protect the citizens he has sworn to protect.

Also, and a point I have not seen mentioned, is that with a President who is an avowed Muslim, who is stirring the racial pot, and firing the finest and best military leaders; we need our local police departments as our first line of defense when, and if, the federal government moves against its populous! We are in danger of becoming a Socialist/Communist country than most of our citizenry realize!

Hiram Legree @ 10/11/2014 12:51 PM

Since the nincompoops are offended by the "military appearance" of gear, perhaps we could have shocking pink stocks on rifles, paint armored vehicles baby blue, and perhaps adorn all gear with "Hello Kitty" motifs. That should appease them. After all, we're dealing with morons who think that the same bullet is deadlier from a "mean looking" rifle than from a less-threatening Ruger Mini-14.

Capt. Crunck @ 10/11/2014 1:17 PM

@ Hiram, I like your comment. LMAO

SFShep @ 10/11/2014 4:00 PM

San Diego Unified School District tried that, painted their MRAP white with a Red Cross, called it an "ambulance", and even put teddy bears in it! People still raised holy hell.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/09/13/348242448/san-diego-school-district-s-new-15-ton-armored-vehicle-creates-stir

Mo Lassis @ 10/11/2014 6:04 PM

I'm sure the chief will be pushing for better gun ownership laws for the citizens of Madison too now. Since citizens just want to get home alive everyday. Madison is the most liberal town in WI, and deals with college kids mostly. I'm tired of cops thinking they are the only ones whose security is important. And to call his new vehicle a "rescue" vehicle is a bit of word smithing. I don't see it used for saving anyone here, and I'm nearby this clowns department. And remind people that more people were killed by cops since the start of "the war on terror" started, than have been killed by the worthless Moslems. It's sad how it's ok for cops, but the citizens are left hanging in the gun rights world. With the rise of criminal cops, we need to be more afraid of cops than the common criminal nowadays. That may ruffle feathers, but it's time for the so called good cops to clean up their criminal cohorts. Tgey always say it's only 1 or 2. Well it's become a trend, and every large department has, and is going through one scandal of corruption after another. And it's getting tiring. Clean it up cops, before we have to clean it up for you.

Terry @ 10/12/2014 1:59 PM

Mo Lassis, You know I was brought up to hate and distrust black people. You know what, I have lived and worked and respected black people throughout all my adult life. As an officer I have had more black partners than white and we have always been great and done things right. If the people of Ferguson would wake up and check the facts on the two suspects that have been killed they would see that they were in the system and had no problems either beating or shooting at officers. So don't give me that BS you are peddling I live and work in Detroit and the shootings we have here are always immediately investigated thoroughly. Take a minute and see how the rioters in Ferguson disrespect the law. They are destroying their own city. Wake up MO.

TheRookie @ 10/13/2014 12:41 AM

Mo Lassis your Aunt Jemima is calling you home. Learn how to spell turnip brain. It's MUSLIM not Moslems. "Clean it up cops, before we have to clean it up for you." Using them Hanging Brains there "Tommy Tough Nuts" Real brave on the computer keyboard. A real palomita you are.
Bobbit/Police Magazine shut these anti-cop haters down.

TheRookie @ 10/13/2014 12:41 AM

Mo Lassis your Aunt Jemima is calling you home. Learn how to spell turnip brain. It's MUSLIM not Moslems. "Clean it up cops, before we have to clean it up for you." Using them Hanging Brains there "Tommy Tough Nuts" Real brave on the computer keyboard. A real palomita you are.
Bobbit/Police Magazine shut these anti-cop haters down.

TheRookie @ 10/13/2014 12:46 AM

Mo Lassis your Aunt Jemima is calling you home. Learn how to spell. It's "Muslims" not Moslems. You say, "Clean it up cops, before we have to clean it up for you." Using them Hanging Brains again aren't you? Real Tommy Tough Nuts behind the computer keyboard. You're a real chuff.

Bobbit/Police Magazine: Why do you allow anti-cop haters on your websites? As a retired L.E.O. with lifetime membership I find that insulting.

Longarm @ 10/13/2014 2:55 AM

There is a disturbing trend I notice among firearms advocates which I would like to see come to an end, namely the demonization of police and other law enforcement as instruments of Obama's anti-freedom, disarmament agenda. As has been rightly pointed out by a serving member here, the police and the military are sworn to defend the constitution of the United States from all enemies both foreign and DOMESTIC, and if push comes to shove, that includes against the president. This has actually already happened, as several Sheriffs Depts have openly refused to follow executive directives to confiscate arms fom civilians. i believe that most officers will overwhelmingly defend the constitution should the president go too far in becoming its enemy.

Snow Cop @ 10/13/2014 5:26 AM

Well written article with a great message.

Bob @ VA @ 10/14/2014 5:48 AM

Madison's police chiefs have been notoriously anti-Second Amendment when it comes to citizens' lawful carry. The city settled a Sec. 1983 lawsuit for $10,000 for illegally harassing a group of open carriers in 2010. I strongly believe that AR-15s are a must for LE, but believe just as strongly that law-abiding citizens have the same right to be so armed to protect themselves and their families. Contrary to the publicity, the real "first responders" are the intended victims who need the ability to respond effectively and immediately to violent predators threatening them and their families. Many thanks to all the LEOs who honor the Constitution that they have sworn to uphold and defend. Some in Madison apparently do not, and that's a leadership issue that starts with the chief.

Rocky @ 10/15/2014 11:09 AM

Well-stated, Longarm - you beat me to the punch.

John @ 11/3/2014 6:21 PM

Police use of an M-4 is insane. All stems from Hibernia bank robbery. How can you go through a dwelling and fire a weapon that's 3200 fps at the muzzle? IRRESPONSIBLE! Auto shotgun is what we should have and the most SWAT should carry.

TC @ 11/23/2014 9:41 AM

I'm not a LEO, but I strongly support and pray everyday for those of you that are. No matter how bad the media portrays police officers, none of them ever advocate that we solve this problem, once and for all, by eliminating all police officers. That is because they know exactly what would happen. Given the total number of police officers and total number of arrests made, the public is more than twice as likely to be struck and killed by lightning, than by a 'bad' cop, yet none of them seem to be worried about lightning. In this internet age, it is easy to get a distorted picture of reality.

Thank you for all that you do.

TC @ 11/23/2014 9:51 AM

John needs to do a bit more investigating into the AR platform and its strengths and weakness before pronouncing judgement. Muzzle velocity means nothing by itself. The definition of irresponsible could be discharging a shotgun from across a WallMart parking lot? You are responsivle for every projectile you send down range. Having said that, there are situations in which a shotgun could be preferred, but I doubt that, as an officer, you can pick which ones they would be.

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