HARSH REALITY: Police Are Not Highly Trained Firearms Experts

has happened again—still? New York City Police, in stopping a dangerous criminal—apparently legitimately—have also shot up the surrounding citizenry. It’s a problem I’ve repeatedly addressed, most recently in October of 2015’s Can The NYPD Ever Stop Shooting Innocents, which contains links to several related earlier articles. The New York Daily News reports an all-too-common narrative:

“The unidentified suspect was swearing at customers in the store and acting aggressively toward Food Emporium workers before his death.

A cop working a nearby Verizon picket line greeted the aggressive suspect outside the store, with a brawl ensuing that left both men on the ground, said O’Neill.

The officer escaped the man’s grasp, and the suspect then pulled the long blade, said O’Neill. He started menacingly toward the first cop and two other officers arriving at the scene, cops said.

The man ignored orders to drop the knife, and one of the officers and a sergeant began shooting. A 46-year-old female bystander at the busy intersection was winged and wounded by one of the [nine] police bullets.”

A careful, but hardly exhaustive, study of reality reveals that common knowledge is wrong: where firearms are involved, the police are not highly trained professionals. That many people buy this misconception is understandable. Americans are raised on a steady diet of cop TV shows and movies where the heroes, virtually every episode, end up shooting bad guys, usually dropping them with single, perfectly placed, shots, or even shooting to wound, which virtually always immediately drops and incapacitates the bad guy.

The truth is—and should be—frightening: the overwhelming majority of police officers are not competent shooters.

Many police officers own few, if any, handguns, and many more own only a shotgun or a .22LR rifle of some kind. They rarely, if ever, practice on their own, and only a tiny portion of all police officers use their own time and money to attend advanced shooting or tactical schools, things a great many citizens routinely do. Far too many officers have only a single firearm: their issued duty handgun. Often, that handgun, as in the case of New York City, is a serious problem in and of itself.