I see a disconnect between the firearms experts and the general public, including many of the posters here, on the issue of police carrying rifles.
The police are not gearing up for a fair fight, nor as the public should we expect them to tolerate that high a level of routine risk.
For example, one police officer arresting one criminal seems like a fair fight, right? Well, the police officer has to use a lot more force because with all the gear on the belt, he has to win or potentially get injured or killed. If he does get hurt, the city will have to pay all his medical expenses and possibly his pension or death benefits. If he uses too much force and violates the suspect's rights, again the city has to pay up. So it is better for all parties _including the suspect_ for five or six police to make the arrest. They can use the minimum force necessary, the suspect gives it up because there's no way he can win, and the taxpayers are saved both medical bills and lawsuits.
Conner makes a really good point:
>> Yet no one is defining the exact "job" that this "tool" will be used for and how it is a better "tool" for that specific "job" than any other options.
In this context, a firearm is a last ditch piece of emergency equipment for saving lives from a deadly threat.
A patrol rifle (specifically, a semiautomatic, often short-barrel rifle chambered in .223) is necessary to be on an even playing field with commonly available civilian rifles which are effective to 300 yards or more. In rural areas, any police officer can expect to encounter these rifles on any call.
Patrol rifles also give substantial range and accuracy advantages over other common firearms such as handgun and shotgun. It also gives some nominal capability in opposition to well-equipped adversaries with body armor, fully automatic rifles, IEDs, distraction devices and tactical communications; such as those who carried out the active shooter terrorist attacks at Mumbai. Not enough to assault against high-speed opponents, but enough to hold a perimeter while waiting for the cavalry.
A highly trained countersniper with a patrol rifle has some hope of deterring or engaging a sniper, which is the real reason you sometimes see rifle-toting police officers at major events. An astute observer will notice that they are looking up and/or at the skyline.
>> Most of the cops have the correct "tool" for their "job" already. It is a pistol.
No. A pistol has a maximum effective range on the order of 25 yards. In most police handgun shootings, trained police officers miss with most of the rounds fired at engagement ranges as little as 5-10 yards. The standard shotgun is on the order of 50 yards and even loaded with slugs, is ineffective beyond 75-100 yards.
>> And it is as effective as a rifle in the scenarios that most cops will ever encounter IN THE CITY.
This caveat is well taken. However, any city is large enough to have areas with long, unbroken sight lines where a rifle could well be necessary. These include ports, airports, large parks, long city streets, mass transit stations and industrial areas.
Also, special weapons and tactics teams require time to assemble. Pre-Columbine police doctrine for countering active shooters is for patrol officers to form a perimeter, then SWAT to assemble. After Columbine and North Hollywood (among many, many others less newsworthy), active shooter doctrine now calls on patrol officers to seek out and engage active shooters.
People murdering people, right now, is one situation in which we do expect police to accept great risk to their own lives to stop it, and the patrol rifle is a highly desirable 'tool' for this particularly hazardous 'job.'
It is true that most police officers will never actually use a patrol rifle on the street. I don't buy this as an argument to deprive all police of this potentially life-saving tool.
I will add that in California, virtually every police agency carries junk in the trunk. You don't see it, but rest assured that it's there.
My personal pet peeve is submachine guns in the hands of beat police. Why carry a firearm with only a slightly longer barrel and pistol ammunition, which does look like a military force and scare the public, yet doesn't give corresponding advantages in range and penetration power?