Maybe you’ve seen the sign at your local range. American Firerarms School has it: “Safety is everybody’s responsibility.” And that’s how I can condemn the entire Lino Lakes Police Department (MN) for the shooting of Officer Chad Schirmers. Because “accidents” like this, where an officer gets shot in the stomach during a training exercise, don’t just happen to happen because one guy stumbles and trips with his finger on the trigger of his service weapon aimed at his brother officer’s center mass. Or racks the slide with his finger on the trigger of his service weapon aimed at his brother officer’s center mass. Or oops shoots himself. ALL negligent discharges are a systemic safety breakdown . . .
In this case, the failure starts with the Chief Swensen, or the guy who hired Chief Swensen, or the voters who elected the guy who hired the Chief Swensen, and ends with the dope who pulled the trigger.
“At this time, it is unknown how the injury occurred,” the Anoka County sheriff’s office said in a statement. “There were three officers shooting at the time of the injury.”
I know that’s all they can say without risking a massive lawesuit. But you really can’t make this simple enough. This negligent discharge occurred because an officer pointed his gun at another officer (or himself) with his finger on the trigger. And then he pulled the trigger. Three safety rules were broken. Someone got shot.
Think there isn’t a culture of incompetence in play? Check out the sound bite from Sgt. Hawley in the above video: “It’s quite rare . . . my twenty-three years . . . maybe it was a malfunction with the gun . . . we can figure it out and correct that.”
There can only be two reasons why a man who’s carried a sidearm for twenty-three years would even mention the possibility of a firearms malfunction re: a negligent discharge. Either A) he’s being deliberately deceitful or B) he really, genuinely doesn’t understand firearms safety. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. B.
And what does that tell you? That we now have an officer who was irresponsible with his weapon, perhaps two more who were shooting with him who might have missed or ignored cues that their colleague was dangerous, and a Sgt. who thinks that guns shoot officers, not officers.
Is it fair to condemn an entire department for an “accident” and someone doing a little proactive CYA without waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the results of the independent investigation?
Sure. Why not? These are, after all, police, otherwise known as public safety officers. The public gives them the right to openly carry a firearm because they expect that the officers will know how to use it safely and effectively. To do that, they must be trained. They are responsible for their own training.
ALL of them have a collective responsibility for that training. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but the police are responsible for maintaining that chain. And the chain of command goes all the way to the top. The main in charge is ultimately the man responsible. But when it comes to firearms safety, everyone is responsible.
For those who think I’m overly harsh, ask yourself this. What could have been done to prevent this negligent discharge and by whom? Is there really an officer in this department who can say “I never had any indication that this might happen”? And if so, why not?