Tony Holden writes:

I’m a retired NYC police officer. I agree with many of the comments regarding trigger pull and lack of training. However, my chief complaint while I served was the poor lack of response training in these situations. There were some of us who tried to get the department to go for a more clandestine approach when it came to responding to a shooting after the fact and going after a suspect in a crowded street. With the advent of surveillance cameras everywhere and the increase in our patrol force, we thought it would be safer for the public if instead of going for the approach and confront or chase and take down that a calmer, more stealthy approach would be safer in such situations.

My partner arrested a suspect who had just shot someone by shadowing him through a crowd of pedestrians. He gave me his cap, borrowed a jacket from a civilian to cover up his uniform shirt, badge and belt equipment (all while we’re on the move), then blended in with the crowd of pedestrians the suspect was in. As the suspect turned a corner my partner came right up next to him and took him down.

Some of the bystanders were startled, but his shouting his identity and that the suspect was under arrest made them realized what was happening, and I had caught up with him by the time he had his handcuffs on him.

In another instance similar to this and the recent Johnson shooting, we kept the suspect under surveillance and he returned to his apartment and that’s where we arrested him.

We always felt these scenarios would work most of the time because there are very rare cases where a suspect starts shooting their victims while an officer is nearby because of the low ratio of officers on the street to civilian population. If a suspect can be followed and caught by surprise it not only reduces the stress level of the officers from where it is when they are in a chase or a firefight situation, but it is always safer for the surrounding public.

I always dreaded having to use my weapon on the street for fear of hitting my fellow officers or civilians. Forutnately, this happens rarely in our whole career. I trained on the firing range every chance I got, but I knew that no matter how many rounds I fired in training, it would only compensate a little when it came to the instantly changing and fluid dynamics of a pursuit.

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21 Responses to Retired NYC Cop on Empire State Bldg. Shooting: I Argued For Stealthy Arrests

  1. This . Right. Here.
    Firing on a crowded street is a bad idea. He wasn’t in a car, he was on foot and this could have been handled better.
    I know it’s Monday morning quarterbacking but Jeez 9 people are shot on this so it could have been done better.

    • Not only that, but the killer was done with his dirty work. He was leaving the scene, and paid nobody on the street any attention, until he seen the uniforms, at which point he drew his gun again causing the cops to fire.

  2. I call that righteous police work. Sir, you earned every penny you and your partner were paid and then some. Too bad your tactics are becoming considered old school. Well done .

    • Considering the shooter became inactive, and left the scene, he wasn’t the same threat level he was previously. Plain-clothes officers would have had no problem getting close enough near him to get the drop on him.

      I agree, that the cop who noted how stealth would work with zero casualties, and no paperwork for drawing their guns and firing, is the best thing. The Cops who work it this way when possible are worth hanging on to and should be used as role models for that behavior.

      (Hey, nobody shoots, no extra paper-work, and Bloomers gets a clean take-down that keeps his cops from being trigger happy, or as bad of shots as the TV bad-guys as far as hitting their intended targets)

  3. This. A million times.

    The police should be protecting the public, never putting them into harm’s way or the path of an errant round. The NYC police who took down the 5th Avenue shooter were more than justified in defending themselves, but had they been taught a better way of handling the case, maybe innocent pedestrians wouldn’t have been accidentally shot.

    The fault lies with the training, not the cops. And the training issue falls squarely at the feet of the police brass. One Police Plaza should be held accountable.

    Fat chance. When things go well, the guys with the scrambled eggs on their hats are the first ones to grab the glory. The blame always goes to someone else.

  4. Great post. Thanks for your years of service and I applaud your unconventional common sense thinking vs. the department leadership. I guess my keyboard commando suggestion yesterday to use plain clothes officers to take down a suspect on a crowded street was sorta on target. Maybe I should have been a cop…

  5. I brought this up to one of my brother-in-laws yesterday (both cops) and he said that what they did was OK because “He was shooting at them”. Yup, straight from a cops mouth, it’s OK to randomly shoot innocent people if you provoke a confrontation and a person shoots at an officer.

  6. good tactics beat firepower 99% of the time. if the man is actively shooter people you have to take him head on, if not bird dog his ass.

  7. Sir, thank you for your service as well. It’s good to hear about olde school policing, and I remember many of the lessons from my training officers. My goal is to take the best of the new and the best of the old, and I’m definitely still learning the job after more than a decade.

    It’s a damn shame that many of the chiefs and powers that be have long since lost their ability to make street – level decisions. I always admired the guys with 20 plus years on the road. They stuck together and called the brass out on a lot of their bullshit. Much of that wisdom has left us in favor of political correctness, tolerance, and liability phobias.

  8. No one has mentioned this as far as I’ve seen. It was actually a lucky thing that this was two beat cops assigned to stand outside the Empire State Building. Mayor Snowplow and Commish Kelly have beefed up units with full auto weapons. All one has to do is catch the train in Penn Station or Grand Central to see more M16’s, MP5’s and tacticool equipment than at the Kabul KFC. The Emp is one of their common haunts…
    From the NYPost:

    http://www.nypost.com/rw/nypost/2010/10/30/news/photos_stories/cop_ready–300×300.jpg

  9. I don’t blame the cops that hit the civies on the streets of NYC any more than I would have blamed the ccw holders that might have been able to respond to the shooter in Aurora. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    • it is not blame – it is simply that somehow there are two standards in Bloomberg’s world: If the police hurt (or heaven forbid kill) anyone, well, it is what is. If a civilian CCW did it, the world is coming to an end.

      I really wish his security detail got pulled and he had to worry about his own safety. . . . . . hope springs eternal. I do wonder what happens when he is no longer mayor.

      • the guy’s a billionaire. he can probably hire better security than the white house has. he can wreck lives and corrupt the government and there’s really nothing we can do but hurt his feelings. and i doubt he has any.

  10. It’s funny really, if not sad, that earlier today I was reading another message forum which I frquent and peopl were decrying guns, mainly along th lines of if “train police” can shoot innocents, then why do us normal folks need the and I posted the TTAG write up concerning the DAO P-226 thrust upon the NYPD and no one said a word.

  11. That’s some calm, cool thinking. Ingenuity like that should always be praised and held up as an example for others. For NYC and other population dense areas, there should be more training and in tactics appropriate to that unique environment. I can only think the officers thought they were running towards a mass shooting and not an active, but single victim shooting.

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