Statistically, you're correct

     Law enforcement officers almost have to be de facto criminologists. After all, they base behavioral predictions on past practices. Coupled with common sense, the officer can increase crime solving success rates and improve safety by looking at...


     An officer searching a building is best served "pie-ing" or "slicing" into any doorway using his tactical light. However, if the room is large or obscured by a lot of furniture, switching on the light is tactically sound. This may help officers maintain a piece of real estate inside the building they have already captured. Statistically, the light switch will be in a predictable place. Sometimes it is better to grab a light switch than attempt to sweep the room in the darkness.

Officer training and statistics

     Some statistics should drive training. Examples include: Of all the data on felons that have murdered law enforcement officers since 1995, more than 77 percent have had a prior arrest and 38 percent have been arrested for a violent charge. One could conclude previous criminal history increases the danger potential for officers.

     In the past three years, the average time in service for officers murdered in the line of duty is 11 years. Few victims are rookies or officers nearing retirement. This may indicate that these officers have sufficient experience to be field training officers, shift supervisors and investigators. It is likely that almost all of these officers were pinnacle of their productivity, observation and investigative skills.

     Additionally, 93 percent of the homicides on law enforcement officers involved a firearm in the past three years. More than 50 percent of these officers were shot within 5 feet — the remaining majority took place within 10 feet. Several of these incidents had more than one officer on-scene.

     How can we use these statistics to benefit our training? First, we should consider how some of the best competitive shooters in the world view their training philosophy. They learn to shoot a lot of bullets in a short time, then work on accuracy.

Shoot a lot of bullets

     Competitive shooters shoot a lot of bullets quickly for an entirely different reason than law enforcement officers should. Their purpose is to practice with a sufficient quantity of bullets in order to create muscle memory centered on trigger control. For a competitive pistol shooter, trigger control is paramount.

     Don't misunderstand this: Competitive shooters do work on accuracy. However, it makes more sense to have the body and firearm deliver a clean shot, then align that clean shot to a good sight picture than the other way around. If the officer gets a good sight alignment and tries to chase it with a clean trigger break, the shot will be flawed.

     Officers should shoot a lot of bullets in order to learn to get the gun out of the holster and on target quickly. Once on target, officers should shoot until the threat is down. Pouring out a sufficient number of hits is good practice.

     Other reasons why trigger control is important are speed and safety. For safety, the officer must be able to get his finger on the trigger when he wants and keep it off when he doesn't. For speed, the officer must be able to train combat shooting in the correct sequence. The officer must see the target then bring the gun to the sight plane.

Get out the red or blue guns

     Agencies who combine defensive tactics with firearms training are truly serving their officers. Scenarios must include rapidfire decision-making processes forced on the officer. For example, trainers can set up a two-station scenario; one with a simulated firearm, the other with a close-up target. Two officers are run through the scenarios simultaneously. The primary officer does the defensive tactics portion. While the back up officer does the shooting.

     In the defensive tactics portion, the officer encounters a suspect armed with a concealed (simulated) handgun. The officer-in-training is wearing his full duty uniform, including his simulated handgun. The officer is instructed to conduct an interview until threatened. He must decide whether to close or widen distance, depending on the scenario. If cover is available, he must seek it. When he sees the concealed firearm, he must yell "gun" or appropriate command to his partner, who is facing the target fewer than 10 feet away.

     The officer in the defensive tactics portion must either wrestle or simulate shooting.

     When the officer in the shooting portion of the scenario hears his partner he must engage a standard target that is partially obscured, simulating shooting around his partner. The scenario continues until the trainer calls an end to the exercise. Partners switch places and equipment and the training continues.

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