One of the bystanders injured by police in the shooting near the Empire State Building has told the Guardian that police officers appeared to fire “randomly” when they faced gunman Jeffrey Johnson.
If you’re gonna aim try and aim perfectly.
If you wanna aim at the target, you got to know what you’re doing because it’s the street.
I could have been dead right now. I could have been dead.
– Robert Asika, wounded in the shooting
A naturally upset and injured bystander caught in a shootout and, as likely as not hit by a round fired from a police officer, sounds off to The Guardian newspaper. There are some interesting debates contained in the words of those adrenaline fuelled soundbites e.g. “perfectly”, “aim”, “try” and the short phrase “know what you’re doing”. Wow, these members of the public aren’t asking for much, are they? (I’m attempting irony here).
I did my 30 and some years in a British police force where less than 3% of officers are
required asked to volunteer to be trained to carry firearms in order to protect the public and their colleagues (not always prioritised in that order, officially anyway). Becoming a firearms trained officer wasn’t/isn’t compulsory, as I’ve already sarcastically hinted at, but those of us who did volunteer were put through some pretty effective training. Of that 3%, an even smaller number were selected (after volunteering again) to train to the highest level of skills at arms and tactical/dynamic manouevering. That `level` was, in reality, the point where the operation would be deemed so technically difficult and hazardous that military SF level dynamics and munitions i.e. explosive methods of entry, high speed rappelling, automatic weaponry etc was required (think assaulting the Iranian Embassy, London, May 1980). Until that point is reached, the civil police run the show. I trained to the latter tactical level and over the years had varying degrees of crap scared out of me, the majority of which was in training, with a couple of major exceptions. Train hard, fight easy is a phrase familiar to many Lexicans, so I won’t dwell.
The advantage I had over my `standard level` firearms trained colleagues was simply more training time, coupled with my own personal committment to be the fittest I could possibly be, the best shot I could possibly be with the variety of weapons I was required to use and the best prepared, mentally, I could possibly be. I could not achieve all of the aforementioned during the training time allotted by the police force. I could not practice my firearms skills because handguns are prohibited in the UK and so I could not fire any full bore handgun outside the police range. I was not allowed to use the police range other than during my allotted training days which was 2 per month. We had to requalify to the required marksmanship standard on alternate months. What I could do in my own time was run, weight train, research, think, eat properly, stay sharp.
When I visitied a Michigan police force in the 80′s, they were amazed at how much weapons training I did compared to them, but I did point out that I was in a small minority. If every officer in my force was required to carry, the training and requalification would probably be bi-annual or less with the shooting and tactical skills commensurately less professional/basic/ one might even be tempted to say `ragged`. I was also quite pleased when I found I was the top scoring officer on their ranges that day (BTW, I loved their FN FAL).
I’m sure that the NYPD ESU would have far greater shooting skills than the standard patrolman, but as we all know training is an investment that a lot of forces would be under pressure to cut, experience takes time and laying down accurate fire whilst controlling your rectal sphincter and trying to stay alive yourself cannot be trained to 100% reality. That takes real investment.