What Does This Tell You About Police Handgun Tactics?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 11 months ago

Honestly, I enjoy shooting handguns more than I do long guns, except distance shooting with bolties and glass.  What I know about handgun tactics and techniques I have learned from the NRA, my oldest son Joshua who worked security at some very rough places, my youngest son Daniel (who despite not having had much handgun training in the Marine Corps, still had some), reddit/r/guns, gun forums, range rules for the many ranges at which I’ve shot, YouTube videos with Jerry Miculek, Travis Haley, Chris Costa, Hickok45 and others, and years and years of doing it and seeing what works and what doesn’t, and what’s safe and what isn’t.  This is something I would never do unless I was in the process of discharging my weapon (and by that I mean I’m in process, and the process is going to be completed because my life is in danger, as opposed to preparing to do it or stand down depending upon the circumstances). [As a sidebar, Daniel jaw-jacked a USMC officer when he was in the Corps when an idiot officer muzzle flagged others with his finger on the trigger, Daniel being range officer that particular day.  Daniel, a Lance Corporal, was supported by other officers for doing what he did and ended the day with accolades – the officer, not so much].

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s recent transition to a new handgun for deputies has coincided with a sharp increase in accidental shootings, “putting officers and the public at risk,” according to a newly released report.

Despite efforts to address the problem, the risk associated with the new Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm “remains substantial,” according to the report by Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman.

“There is a continued risk that either LASD employees or civilians may be seriously wounded or killed by an unintended discharge,” Huntsman wrote.

He said further study and steps to mitigate the problem are needed “before a tragedy occurs.”

A handful of deputies have been injured in accidental shootings in recent years, according to the report. No suspects or bystanders have been hurt in the incidents.

The report, an advance copy of which was obtained by CNN, found that a sheriff’s department training program for deputies converting to the new gun is inadequate.

“We conclude that the current training program is insufficient to overcome old habits learned on other handguns,” the 52-page report states. “As a result, many deputies appear to be to undertrained for the weapon they are using.”

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers, a top aide to Sheriff Jim McDonnell, said in an interview Wednesday that department officials had noted the trend with accidental discharges associated with the gun prior to the IG’s report and independently took steps to address the problem.

“We welcome the IG’s input as to some things we can do better,” Rogers said, “but we saw this coming before any outside pressure caused us to respond.”

Rogers noted that accidents were down so far this year, which he attributed to the department’s efforts to mitigate the problem.

The department went to the new gun, in part, because it is easier to handle and easier to shoot accurately, particularly for people with small hands. The gun comes with a smaller grip and requires significantly less pressure to pull the trigger than the Beretta 9mm that had been standard issue in the sheriff’s department for years.

The LASD began issuing the Smith & Wesson to all new recruits going through the academy beginning in 2013. Veteran deputies were allowed to transition to the gun if they took an eight-hour training course. The department has since issued about 6,100 of the handguns to its deputies.

The IG found that “as soon as widespread use of the new gun by field deputies commenced, there was a marked increase in tactical unintended discharges — that is, deputies firing weapons without intending to do so during police operations.”

In 2014, “after substantial adoption of the new weapon in patrol settings,” the report noted, accidental discharges in the field shot up by more than 500% — from three in 2012 to 19.

Sixteen of the accidents involved deputies armed with handguns, the report found. Fifteen of those were carrying the Smith & Wesson.

So far in 2015, LASD deputies have been involved in 18 such shootings; 14 involved the Smith & Wesson, according to the report.

That figure is down from the dramatic increase in 2014, but still represents a 61% rise from the year before the gun was introduced, Huntsman’s report states.

The IG’s review found several factors that “apparently contributed” to accidents with the gun since its introduction:

–The weapon lacks an external safety;

–It’s more sensitive than the Beretta;

–And a light mounted to the gun and activated by deputies squeezing a pressure switch on the handle has led to confusion in some incidents, with “a significant number of deputies reporting that they unintentionally pulled the trigger of their weapon when they intended only to turn on the light.”

We’ve dealt with weapon-mounted lights before, noting that the real problem isn’t a switch or trigger for the light, but officers thinking that they are operating the light rather than the gun.  The solution isn’t to remove the light.

I once was responsible for a relative’s home before we could work on it and sell it – the story is long and too involved to discuss, and it would bore you.  At any rate, I [only one time] used the pistol over forearm with left hand holding the light method to clear the house as I entered.  Here I must tell you that because the house was unoccupied during the week and given the fact that on the weekends I had to do work in the house alone, I cleared the domicile room-to-room the first time I entered the structure on the weekends, and carried a weapon on my person my entire time in the home, often with my Doberman Heidi with me (this is the gun sitting near her, not what I used for room clearing but great gun-porn nonetheless).  Partly this had to do with where the house was located and when I had to do the work, which was mainly at night, but I promised not to tell you the story so I won’t.

I say I used that method only one time.  I will never do it again.  It may look cool in the TV shows, but by the time you’ve done your last room, you’re exhausted.  Only once did I do this.  Then I got a weapon-mounted light.  It worked wonders for my attention to detail.  As I said above, the solution isn’t to jettison the weapon-mounted light.  It’s to train and ensure you don’t make the kind of errors that cops are making with weapon-mounted lights.  With my time in that house, it’s likely that I’ve had more time in training than most cops doing that drill, and I’m a nobody.

So leaving aside the issue of weapon-mounted lights, what does the report tell you about police handgun tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP)?  Note well.  This isn’t a cop-bashing post.  This is intended to elicit thought and pondering and mental labor concerning what cops in that neck of the woods are being taught versus how you [hopefully] are practicing handgun tactics.

Think about this.  A handgun is being blamed because of a light trigger pull, while doing police work.  Be educated.  Ponder on this a bit.  What does this tell you versus what you should be doing and how you should be training?  And ponder the fact that the first shot you will ever fire in self defense will probably be from a handgun.

Prior: Gun-Mounted Flashlights Linked To Accidental Shootings

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Comments

  1. On December 18, 2015 at 10:15 am, GenEarly said:

    What does it tell me? “Keep your dumb ass finger off the twigger, until….”
    S&W, M&P is a fantastic moderate priced handgun.

  2. On December 18, 2015 at 10:29 am, Blake said:

    Gad, I hate to think what would happen if these cops were issued decent 1911’s, what with the little to no trigger takeup and the pretty much standard 4 to 5 lb trigger pull.

  3. On December 18, 2015 at 11:03 am, Steven said:

    I’m inclined to put the blame on whoever did the specifications on the original contract. My current carry handgun is a S&W Military & Police 9mm, and it is equipped with an ambidextrous external safety. The manufacturer can provide what the customer requests, especially for a big, high-profile customer like the LA Sherriff’s Department.
    Yes their training program is somewhat lacking, but if they aren’t going to train, then they need to think about what the equipment is going to do in untrained hands.

  4. On December 18, 2015 at 1:49 pm, Archer said:

    Next paragraph: Adding to the problem was some deputies violating a basic firearms safety rule by placing their finger on the trigger prior to making the conscious decision to fire, the report states.

    First thing, I’m amazed CNN bothered to educate itself on basic firearms safety rules!

    Second thing, booger-hook-on-bang-switch dramatically increases the probability of an “accidental” discharge, and it has precisely nothing to do with the gun, the gun’s trigger sensitivity, or the presence (or absence) of weapon-mounted lights. We can debate over whether at that point the discharge is accidental or negligent, but the point stands.

    A heavier trigger pull might mitigate the risk somewhat, but if you’re depending on your equipment to keep you (and those around you) safe instead of your brain, you’re doing it wrong.

  5. On December 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm, Frogdaddy said:

    Why doesn’t CNN mention this nugget and why the need for the change to begin with?

    “In 2009, outside
    consultants, the Landy Litigation Group, concluded that the size of the Beretta had
    a disproportionate impact on female recruits’ ability to successfully complete
    firearms training and recommended that the LASD move away from the Beretta.”

  6. On December 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm, DAN III said:

    “….the Landy Litigation Group, concluded that the size of the Beretta had
    a disproportionate impact on female recruits’ ability….”

    Social Justice. And now it has been implemented into the United States Army.

    What remains of this once great nation is in deep dung.

  7. On December 18, 2015 at 4:40 pm, Sandydog said:

    There are several different ways to use a small (or large, for that matter) flashlight in conjunction with a handgun to provide off-hand support if the gun doesn’t have an onboard light, from the days when such things weren’t available for handguns. They work well. Good agencies that have gun-mounted lights still demand that their officers have an independent light, to prevent their officers from using their guns to ‘search’.
    A gun-mounted light is a convenience when the gun is on a target, but not much use otherwise; Having a light also doesn’t change the operating system for the gun.
    Before Glocks and Glock copies, officers carrying ‘traditional’ DA/SA autos with safeties (such as early S&Ws and Berettas) weren’t trained to carry their guns with the safeties engaged; Everyone relied on the long, crunchy 12lb first-shot DA trigger pulls as additional ‘safeties,’ and didn’t pay much attention to finger-off-trigger instruction. Now, with Glock systems everywhere, there obviously isn’t enough training done to embed the necessity of finger-off-trigger to the extent that a 5.5lb trigger pull requires. Throwing in a weapon-mounted light and its switch clearly requires just that much more training time.
    If officers are trained properly, and not just given an 8-hour ‘transition’ course and a ‘qualification,’ Glock-type systems are just as safe as any other. Once again, ineffective and slipshod training leads to failure in the field.

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You are currently reading "What Does This Tell You About Police Handgun Tactics?", entry #14461 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published December 18th, 2015 by Herschel Smith.

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