Law enforcement snipers are a special breed of officer who is prepared to engage a criminal threat with precision rifle fire. This training advances from the basics rifle through advanced tactics, observation and intelligence training. Police sniper training is conducted by both federal and state training facilities and private contractors.
History of Police sniper training
Beginning in 1966 with the long range shootout with Charles Whitman in the University of Texas tower, law enforcement agencies began to train and maintain skilled riflemen. At first men who were simply good shots were authorized to carry their deer rifle with them on call outs. Training mimicked the US Army's basic rifle training especially in departments that issued an AR-15 style weapon. By the 1980s specialized sniper rifles such as the Steyr SSG and Remington 700-Police began to find there way into the racks of dedicated SRT units and SWAT teams. During the same time period matching law enforcement precision rifle
classes began to be offered which trained on the unique scenarios faced by police snipers.
Function of police sniper training
Law enforcement snipers serve a special function in the response to criminal incidents and threats. Most of the implementation of police snipers is in having a trained and equipped operator capable of observing the incident from a safe distance, often unseen by the suspect. Studies have shown that 99% of police sniper call outs do not result in engaging a target with live fire. The police sniper is instrumental in resolving the incident as they are the 'eyes' of the tactical commander, feeding them information in actual time. It is this capability that is unique to the training of police snipers as tactical military snipers are often trained to engage targets of opportunity inside their rules of engagement.
Basic police rifle training
Several law enforcement agencies have adopted 'patrol carbines' for selected patrol officers. These carbines fill the gap from handguns to long range precision rifles (25-300 meters) and provide basic training to officers over an 18-40 hour period. This training however is not considered 'sniper' training as these courses are simply tactical in nature and include room clearing and other missions that a precision rifleman would not perform. The crucial observation and intelligence gathering skills are not taught in basic rifle training.
Advanced precision marksmanship training for the law enforcement sniper imparts a unique skill set. It typically runs 40+ hours of both classroom and range training with scoped high powered tactical rifles with a basic rifle course as a pre-requisite. In the course the importance of ballistic trajectory, windage and elevation are imparted to achieve successful long range shots out to 800 meters. The concept ofspotter-shooter teams is taught that allow rotation in an extended observation situation and proper documentation of collected intelligence.
Advanced precision marksmanship training for the law enforcement sniper is very specialized. Some large State Police academies offer the training courses at their facilities. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) offers the 44-hour Law Enforcement Rifle Training Program (LERTP) and the 47-hour Precision Rifle Observer Training Program (PROP) for scoped rifles out to 600-meters. These courses, while offered by the federal government are available to regular law enforcement as long as they meet standard pre-requisites. There are also a number of private companies that offer police sniper training.
Dockery, Kevin Stalkers and Shooters: A History of Snipers Berkley 2006
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Firearms Courses