My Call for More Officer Training That Mimics Real-Life Events is Heeded
By Ken K. Gourdin
First, some useful background. (Or perhaps it really isn’t all that useful; if you think so, skip to the paragraph that begins, “None of the foregoing, however, is the real point of this post.” ;-D) Salt Lake Tribune editorialist George Pyle wrote a piece that can be found here criticizing the view that a better-armed citizenry makes for a safer society and commenting on the incident in which New York City Police shot sixteen times at an armed suspect, hitting him only twice while hitting bystanders nine times. Some New York Times coverage of the incident can be found here (last accessed today): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/nyregion/bystanders-shooting-wounds-caused-by-the-police.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. Mr. Pyle’s piece can be found here (last accessed today): http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/mobile/54797389-68/gun-guy-com-bad.html.csp. I replied to Mr. Pyle’s piece in a letter to the editor in which I opined, in part, as follows:
Pyle’s commentary verifies one conclusion of my op-ed column “Officers sometimes forced to shoot armed suspects” (Opinion, Jan. 1 ), in which I defended officers who killed an armed man outside the LDS Church’s Oquirrh Mountain Temple. Officers are trained to shoot at center mass because adrenaline makes them less accurate: Better to shoot at center mass and hit an extremity than to shoot at an extremity and miss entirely.
I would rather not be shot. But if I am, I prefer to be shot by police officers who are not aiming at me, rather than by a criminal who is.
My letter in response, in its entirety, can be found here (last accessed today):
Perhaps this deduction is merely the result of the ineffective workings of my simple mind, but it seems entirely uncontroversial to me to suggest that I’m more likely to be seriously injured or killed by someone who is aiming at me than I am to be seriously injured or killed by someone who is not aiming at me, but who happens to hit me anyway. Alas, not so, according to the superior minds who opined on my letter in on line comments.
One commenter said, “If those nine bystanders all had guns, none of this would have happened, right? Wrong.” I replied, “I don’t recall making any arguments for a better-armed citizenry [in my letter]. Perhaps you could point out to me where I did so?” Alas (and shockingly, at that) he was silent in response.
In snide derision, another commenter wrote, “[E]veryone knows that ‘accidental bullets’ hurt a lot less than intentional ones.” I replied, “My argument isn’t that “‘accidental bullets’ hurt a lot less than intentional ones.” It’s simply that I’m more likely to suffer a serious injury or death from someone who is aiming at me than I am from someone who is not.”
He responded, “My point [emphasis in original, meant, no doubt, not-so-subtly to convey the message that his point is, ipso facto and res ipsa loquitur, superior to my argument] is: a bullet doesn’t give a **** [asterisks in original] who it hits.” I responded, “A bullet may not give a you-know-what who it hits, but a criminal who fires it does. If s/he’s not aiming at me but hits me anyway, s/he’s more likely to hit me in a less critical area than someone who is aiming at me.”
Another commenter wrote, “Please explain what the difference [between being hit by someone who is aiming at you and being hit by someone who is not] is. Does it hurt less? Will your family miss you less? Will you get to heaven faster that way? It’s obvious that you couldn’t be educated less.”
Thank you for the compliment! If you honestly believe you stand a better chance of being seriously hurt or killed being shot by someone who isn’t aiming at you than by someone who is aiming at you, then your dig at my education speaks volumes … I don’t think it says what you think it says, but it does speak volumes. Even if I’m hit by someone who isn’t aiming at me, yes, it probably would hurt less, since the likelihood is that I wouldn’t be hit in a critical area. I also stand a better chance of sticking around to enjoy more time with my family, and of not taking a premature trip to “heaven” … or wherever I go after this life (assuming I go anywhere). [All ellipses in original].
In perhaps the best response of all to my letter, another commenter wrote simply, “What a stupid letter”—Res ipsa loquitur, ipso facto, and quod erat demonstrandum. What more needs to be said? Alas, since I’m (self-evidently!) slow on the uptake, I responded:
Thanks for the substantive response, [screen name redacted]. In the unlikely event that you DO wish to engage me substantively rather than simply hurling empty insults, I’ll ask, with which of the following do you disagree?
- That the fight-or-flight adrenaline response which occurs when someone is under fire makes that person less accurate?
- That a shooter is more likely to seriously injure or kill someone when that shooter is aiming at the person hit rather than when the shooter is not aiming at the person hit?
- That officers need more than simple occasional range practice with stationary targets to improve their response to under-fire situations?
Which of those points do you think is the stupidest, or are they all equally stupid? (If you don’t agree with any of those points, I’ll be quite surprised: the only one which is even remotely debatable is the second one.) I made all of these points in my letter. Do you still think I’m stupid?
His response? “Yes. Very much so.” I replied, “Thanks again for the substantive response! Have a great day! ;-D”
None of the foregoing, however, is the real point of this post. (“But you made us read it anyway?” you ask. Yeah; I’m just funny that way.) My letter to the editor concluded as follows: “The New York incident also illustrates why occasional range practice using stationary targets may be insufficient. Officers should get more simulation time that mimics real-life events.” (Another poster, a former law enforcement officer, said that his agency had its officers run ½ mile before range practice to simulate the adrenaline fight-or-flight response that officers experience when they are genuinely under fire.) Fortunately for both officers and for the public they “protect and serve,” as was the case with the former officer I quote above (and consistent with my recommendation), officers are getting more training that mimics real-life live-fire situations.
To avoid a lackadaisical, “Who cares if I get ‘killed’? This is only a simulator anyway” response, perhaps, consistent with the point made by the former officer in the preceding paragraph, officers should be required to undergo physical exertion before using the simulator, as well, although one officer quoted in the Deseret News story I link to below (last accessed today) notes that simulator action, too, provokes a fight-or-flight response: