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Riverside County Sheriff Increases Protection of Deputies

October 15, 2016

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif – As a result of shooting incidents on our nation’s law enforcement officers, Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff authorized a number of changes within the Department to better protect members in responding to incidents in its field operations.

Riverside County is the 4th largest of California’s counties, and the 10th most populous county in the United States. Shooting attacks, including ambush attacks, on law enforcement officers nationwide are increasing at an alarming rate with the use of high-velocity rifles in those attacks. In too many cases, the armed suspects our front-line officers are facing are increasingly wearing various forms of body armor in carrying out those attacks, including increased numbers of incidents of domestic terrorism.

The Sheriff authorized today optional increased use of more potent “special purpose body armor” by uniformed first-responders throughout its field operations, as well as increasing the agency’s supply of specialized ammunition for the very specific use in defeating suspects wearing body armor in armed attacks. In the past, specialized ammunition, and body armor over and above standard police soft body armor, were solely under the purview and use of the Sheriff’s SWAT team, which has a vast array of tools to field in their response to incidents, initially responded to and handled by uniformed first-responders. The Sheriff’s SWAT team will still rely upon that wide array of specialized equipment, including special weapons. But the Sheriff felt the need to increase the protection of his uniformed patrol initial responders in light of these current conditions, by authorizing increased body armor protection and to give deputies the ability to initially defend themselves by making readily available specialized 5.56mm patrol rifle ammunition for those narrow circumstances – capable of being used in the versatile 5.56mm patrol rifle platform.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Department is currently challenged with reduced patrol staffing levels throughout our county’s massive unincorporated areas due to required budget reductions and operating in the face of rising crime, jail overcrowding-caused “early releases,” as well as the rising numbers of attacks on officers.

Shortly after the 2013 Dorner incident, the Sheriff convened a special study group of firearms experts to review the current 5.56mm police patrol rifle platform in long use with an eye toward evaluating a variety of rifles to better deal with suspects increasingly utilizing body armor, and especially within the county’s huge rural areas where there are longer distances traveled to get to calls for service. The eventual result was a decision by the department to remain with the standard 5.56mm patrol rifle, but to begin to acquire more specialized ammunition to keep in inventory to use in special circumstances to better defeat those armed suspects wearing body armor. The Sheriff’s Department subsequently began acquiring that more specialized 5.56mm ammunition to have it available within the department’s inventory and for staff planners to make it much more deployable countywide for those unique patrol circumstances. Those armed suspect calls and domestic terrorism incidents now seem to be growing at an ever-increasing rate, day-by-day, nationwide. The need to deploy such specialized ammunition in a timely fashion has become even more important for our frontline first-responders to defend themselves and the communities they serve.

Increased Body Armor: the Sheriff has now authorized the individual purchase and official use of “rifle plates” for use as an additional “add-on” layer of protection specifically to counter high-velocity rifle fire for use in a variety of special circumstances, like incidents of active-shooters and domestic terrorism. These much heavier “rifle plates” are carried in special over-the-uniform plate carriers, or within existing load-bearing vests, and they offer greatly increased additional protection to deputies over and above bullet-resistant so-called “soft body armor” typically worn under the uniform. The Sheriff’s Department will seek funding to purchase and issue rifle plate carriers through grants or other means, but in the interim, the Sheriff has authorized immediate voluntary purchase and use of the rifle plate carriers by deputies. Currently deputies individually purchase their own duty handguns, and optionally can purchase and use their own shotgun and patrol rifles as long as those pieces of safety equipment meet department standards.

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