This morning, I read Paul Markel’s column for officer.com: Firearms Training Sanity Check; Why do we train the way we do? The answer: “Rather than examine or address any deficiencies in the curriculum or training program, it’s much easier to simply state, that’s we way we’ve always done it. Well that’s great. We used to bore holes in people’s head to let the demons out. I’m sorry folks but we’ve always done it like that is a crutch. It’s an easy way out that requires no thought or effort.” Yes, well, what’s wrong with “it”? How should police be training? Markel’s article pulled more punches than a paid-off prizefighter. So I rang him up, expecting some carefully couched criticism. Nope. He let police firearms training standards have it, both barrels . . .
“The vast majority of cops don’t have a warrior mentality,” the formerly active Marine and ex-cop told TTAG. “Cops win gunfights because they show up with a lot of cops. Whenever they run into serious, motivated and trained bad guys, they get their asses handed to them.”
And yet most of them have no desire to train hard . . .
“It’s all about their ego. They like to practice what they’re good at: standing still and slowly firing at a target that’s five to ten yards away. That way they make lots of nice pretty groups and they can keep thinking that they know how to use a gun . . .
“I tell them to start a string lying on their back. The groups don’t look so nice but they know how to draw and shoot after someone’s knocked them on the ground, before the bad guy comes at them with a knife and starts using them for a pin cushion.”
Markel’s been angry at the state of the average American police force’s combat preparedness for quite some time. When he left the Gulf War for home, Markel graduated at the top of his police academy class. And yet work was hard to come by.
“I was too caucasian and too male for the job,” he states. “When you are more interested in filling quotas than hiring warriors you end up with government workers . . .
“I’d say around one to two percent of police are ‘gun guys’. They’ll spend their own money on ammo and train hard. The rest couldn’t care less. They just want a government job.”
Gun guys. Two little words capable of trigger a major rant.
“Lots of cops say it to me like they’re proud of it. ‘I’m not a gun guy.’ They get all lofty about it. Like if you’re a gun guy you’re some kind of barbarian or Rambo.
“Imagine a plumber who says ‘I’m not a pipe and wrench guy.’ It’s ridiculous. If you’re a cop, you ARE a gun guy. You have to do it. It’s part of your job. ‘I’m not a gun guy.’ Try explaining that to a bad guy when you’re lying in a ditch and he’s about to blow your head off . . .
“Cops aren’t social workers. Some people in America want them to be social workers. They think combat is too nasty and horrible. But they’re supposed to be gunfighters. They need to be gunfighters.”
In the current era of fiscal austerity, firearms training is particularly vulnerable to cut-backs. Markel is not having an easy time of it. But he’s optimistic that a sea change is on the horizon.
“A lot of the new police recruits are kids coming back from Afghanistan. They’ve been there. They know what’s real. They’ve got the warrior spirit. As they work their way up the ranks, they’ll start to lobby for serious training and the budgets to pay for them.”
The change of attitude and increase in real world gunfighting skills can’t happen soon enough for the Mississippi-based trainer. Or for us, the citizens the cops are supposed to protect and serve.