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Firearms Training and the Smaller Department

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 69 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2002 Pages: 17-24
Gregory B. Morrison; Philip L. Shave
Date Published
May 2002
8 pages
This article recommends and describes components of firearms training for smaller police departments, with attention to Washington State.
The research findings discussed in this article suggest wide variation among police departments' in-service firearms training and proficiency efforts in Washington State. The primary responsibility of limiting officer exposure to the risks associated with firearm use falls to training that is required, or at least influenced, by statutory provisions, State training commissions, departmental policies and practices, and professional associations. Further, firearms training must be concerned with accuracy, given that in only about half of officer-involved shooting incidents does at least one police bullet strike one opponent. This is alarming, not only for both officer and public safety, but it also raises questions about the development, current state, and foreseeable future of public safety firearms training. The research associated with this article involved a survey of 224 firearms training instructors and 124 departments. Questions probed in-service firearm requalification, instructor selection and development, field performance evaluation, budget and resource allocation, marksmanship and gun handling techniques, range safety and procedures, equipment and ammunition, and the basic law enforcement academy for recruit training. This article focuses on the following issues as they pertain to smaller departments: handgun requalification, instructor certification, training framework, training facilities, and performance evaluation. Regarding handgun requalification, the article recommends that officers be required to have the competence to use firearms to defend themselves, fellow officers, and the public. This requires that departmental policies set qualification intervals, course composition, scoring criteria and thresholds, and responses to initial as well as chronic failure to qualify. Regarding instructor certification, the author recommends having instructors attend a basic firearms instructor development program at the State level. Regarding training framework, officers should train in firearms use at least three times a year, using a broad array of officer field experiences and performance to indicate competence. Regarding facilities, smaller departments should combine their limited resources so as to provide for the most extensive and flexible firearms training facility possible. Regarding performance evaluation, there are two aspects: training and officer-involved shootings. For smaller departments, in which there are typically few officer-involved shootings, there should be a central depository for such incidents, such that the pooling of experiences by smaller departments will yield information important for assessing the relevance of firearms training components in smaller departments.