16 May 14
When we “go to guns!”
“We are irritated by rascals, intolerant of fools, and prepared to love the
rest. But where are they?”
We professing Operators spend much time on our weapon skills, as it should
be. Recent, inadvertent videos of police officers, and other good people,
shooting criminal suspects, in fact, reveal that accuracy, with both
pistols and rifles, is actually pretty good! These officers know how to use a
set of sights and run a trigger!
I know there are still exceptions, but accuracy, and indeed general
competence, has greatly improved since 1970, when I first became a police
Individual tactics have improved also. As an example, officers today are
aggressively seeking available cover and using it skillfully.
All good news!
But, there is one critical area that still represents a lethal problem, and
we’ve seen scant improvement as long as I can remember:
Officers, and armed citizens, today are so afraid of defending themselves
with gunfire, that they habitually expose themselves to what can only be
called suicidal risk, in order to avoid pressing the trigger.
We endlessly see them in videos demanding that a suspect drop his gun (that
is already pointed in the direction of officers) numerous times. When the
suspect fails to comply, they do nothing but repeat the command, over and
They have the skills and personal competence, but they lack willingness and
They are often discouraged from ever shooting, under any circumstances, by
cynical police administrations, who are more worried about image and
political heat than they are about the safety of their own officers. In fact,
incompetent officers, who are little more than cowards, are often rewarded
for displaying “judicious restraint.” “Judicious restraint” is usually
nothing but fearful, and dangerous, indecision. Officers who can’t bring
themselves to make a life-or-death decision need to be fired, not rewarded!
But, there is an even greater contributor to officer indecisiveness: We don’t confront the issue honestly and frankly during training.
We train people to operate guns skillfully, but, when the question comes
about when to apply deadly force, all anyone wants to do is quote statutes,
and tell officers, ad nauseam, about all the liability that attaches!
Video simulators can be helpful, but the unspecified implication is
invariably, when you’re involved in a shooting, of any kind, your career with
this department is effectively over!
In addition, there is the popular myth of the “good shooting.” When you’re involved in a defensive shooting, a plaintiff’s expert (five years from
now) will unfailingly point out where and how you could have done it
better. And, I promise you, he’ll be right!
No shooting is ever “perfect,” and that unrealistic expectation has doomed
many otherwise promising police careers, as well a providing endless
lucrative employment for a virtual army of otherwise unoccupied attorneys!
When your gun is drawn, nothing “good” is going to happen from that point
forward. It is only a matter of how “bad” it is going to get. Whether
or not you ultimately shoot is largely out of your control. When the
suspect decides to lethally endanger you, you’ll have little choice!
And, the aftermath, legally, financially, professionally, and emotionally,
will be anything but pleasant! However, unpleasant as it is, it is
probably better than being dead. For one, I don’t consider “being dead” a
All this must be talked about and thought about, openly and candidly,
during training, not discussed only in whispers, as it is in so many quarters.
Officers, and Operators in general, need to be “fully armed,” with all
skills, mental/philosophical preparedness, and equipment they will need to be
victorious in this dangerous world.
We do less at our, the their, peril!
“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty, and how
few by deceit.”
It’s important to me to realize this is as relevant today, maybe even more so, than it was 6 years ago.