As my range date heads out to the new James Bond movie I’d bet dollars to donuts (and lots of ’em) that Daniel Craig got more firearms training time for Skyfall than your average NYPD officer receives in their entire career. The New York Times’ article Ready, Aim, Ready? dances around this dearth of trigger training like a Democratic politician discussing entitlement reform . . .
Alan Feuer’s story starts with a description of sim city: the NYPD’s Tactics House in the Bronx. Readers who leave the narrative early would be forgiven for thinking that Big Apple cops are prepared for ballistic ballet.
They so are not, as New Yorkers familiar with the Empire State Building shooting (strangely absent from the Feuer’s report) where New York’s Finest shot nine civilians will suspect. Or anyone good at stats . . .
Police shootings — especially those resulting in fatalities — are rare. Last year, according to the department’s Annual Firearms Discharge Report, an exhaustive analysis of each police bullet fired during the year, the 35,000 officers on the force encountered an estimated 23 million civilians, and on 92 occasions, a bullet was actually fired. Of those shootings, 19 led to injuries and a smaller number, 9, resulted in a death. According to those odds, you are much more likely to be killed in New York City in a car crash or by a heart attack than you are by the police.
So New York City cops cleared leather on 92 occasions. Just for fun, let’s assume all of the injuries and deaths were inflicted on people who posed a lethal threat, even though we know that cops tagged at least nine innocent bystanders.
So in 28 out of 92 incidents cops hit their target. That’s a hit rate of less than 50 percent. Only nine of those 28 shootings terminated the threat (with extreme prejudice). While we don’t want anyone to die ever, and modern medicine could sew-up Bonnie and Clyde faster than Build-a-Bear can stuff Snow Hugs Vanilla Cream Bunny, that’s a pretty pathetic kill ratio.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad non-criminal New Yorkers have more to fear from 28-ounce sodas—I mean a car crashes, than errant police bullets.
And I’m not surprised that the Times somehow forgot to mention the Empire State Building debacle, the total number of bullets fired (416) and the attendant sub-30 percent hit ratio. Not to mention 15 negligent discharges or the fact that 36 of those shots were aimed at animals.
But you’d kinda hope the Grey Lady would have cut to the chase—the troops’ lack of firearms training—a little earlier in the article. That said, Feuer gets there. Eventually. Kinda.
Full-fledged officers go to Rodman’s Neck two days out of the year to shoot 150 rounds on the range and practice more dynamic techniques, like firing rapidly, to simulate the adrenaline rush of gunfights. The officers get a third day of training at the department’s Tactical Village . . .
Commissioner Kelly was aghast at the suggestion that weapons training was purposefully curtailed because of budgetary concerns. At the same time, he pointed out that officers were regularly taken off patrol for sick days, court appearances, parade-protection details and other sorts of instruction, and that his chief responsibility was to protect the residents of New York.
“You can always train more,” he said. “We can train people 30 days a year, 40 days a year. But obviously we have an obligation to get people on the street. We’re down 6,000 police officers already. How much training do you do?” . . .
RAND’s analysis concluded that while the department’s twice-yearly target tests for officers met state standards (the state requires only one day on the range), they did not “demonstrate that the officer has mastered his or her firearm and is ready for a shooting confrontation on the street.” In one particularly pointed passage, the authors wrote: “Given the number of officers who must requalify each year, the objective seems to be to get the officers through as quickly as possible rather than to have them master the art of realistic shooting.”
Mr. Kelly has promised to increase the amount of scenario-based training for recruits when the department opens its new academy next year in College Point, Queens. However, his efforts to improve the firearms proficiency of officers already on the job may be hindered by logistics. Even RAND acknowledged that the Police Department “faces a difficult task” in keeping a force as large as the population of some small suburbs in peak fighting form.
Logistics are to blame for crappy cop shooting—leaving out hiring, promotion, the infamous 13-pound New York trigger and a total annual round count that’s marginally greater than a civilian shooter’s average range session. And that’s OK?
The newspaper that never misses an opportunity to slam the idea that average New Yorkers should be able to carry a concealed firearm because they’re incapable of doing so responsibly should be ashamed of itself.
As should the New York City police for not seeing the Empire State Building shooting as a clear message that they need a comprehensive overhaul of their firearms training regime. STAT. [h/t Dan Baum]