A police sniper, generally deployed as a member of a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team, is a sharpshooter with a specific target or targets. The police sniper generally has the high ground and uses a rifle and scope built for dependability and accuracy and not necessarily for ruggedness. Accuracy for the police sniper is a matter or life and death; if he misses the shot, a hostage or hostages could easily die.
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Police Sniper Requirements
Before becoming a police sniper, you must work in law enforcement and qualify to join a SWAT team. SWAT officers are team players in excellent physical condition, mentally sound, highly intelligent and self-motivated. A SWAT member has to make judgment calls on the fly and be able to adapt instantly in a fluid situation. Additionally, SWAT members must remain calm and detached during intense situations. The SWAT sniper is usually the eyes of the team’s operation since he usually has the best sightline on the target and is often in the best position to evaluate the situation.
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Guidelines for the testing a SWAT applicant can vary. However, general requirements include a written test to evaluate a candidate’s tactical know-how and understanding of police policies, and physical fitness testing likely to consist of a timed 1.5-mile run; maximum sit-ups, push-ups and bench presses in one minute; a 300-yard sprint and other physical tests. A firearms test will score accuracy, shoot-and-move, rapid fire sequence, target acquisition and weapons mechanics. Additionally, a candidate may have to pass a review board interview and a psychological evaluation. In Portsmouth, Va., a SWAT team candidate endures two weeks of 15-hour days running several miles on hillsides wearing a gas mask, and a variety of assaults, such as entering buildings, aeroplanes and a bus.
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Police Sniper Training
A great deal of time for SWAT snipers is spent training. Police snipers must remain sharp and regularly hone their skills. For example, the Tucson, Ariz., Police Department’s snipers regularly practice live fire drills from relatively close to 1,000 yards. In Washington state, the Spokane Police Department’s SWAT team is the largest such unit in the area, with four squads all with snipers who train every other week for a minimum of four hours each session. The training involves shooting from 50 to 500 yards and often requires firing through glass and other impediments.
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Police snipers are trained to take down their target with a single shot in a single instant. Such training is gained at intense facilities such as the Hathcock Sniper School, which offers an 11-day, 90-hour minimum training regime for SWAT team snipers. The school specialises in teaching precision firing in stressful situations and field application of marksmanship, observation, movement and concealment, as well as range finding, care and cleaning of weapons and other tactical considerations.
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for a police officer is a little over £33,150, with the lowest 10 per cent earning less than £19,500 and the highest 10 per cent pushing £52,000. A police sniper is comparable to a detective who earns an average £39,000 annually.