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Preventing Unintentional Discharges

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 23 Issue: 3 Dated: March 1999 Pages: 36-38
B Scott
Date Published
3 pages
After explaining how police officers may unintentionally discharge their firearms, this article explains techniques and practices for preventing such discharges.
Unintentional discharges most often occur when officers perceive themselves to be in life-threatening situations. Under such conditions involuntary physiological changes occur that can impair officer judgment, mental alertness, and body control. Under these physiological conditions an officer may pull a firearm trigger unintentionally. This article offers practical suggestions for reducing the impact of these debilitating physiological changes. One practical suggestion offered is to practice keeping the trigger finger outside of the trigger guard until the gun is on target and there is a rational intention to shoot the firearm. The shooting finger should preferably be indexed on the slide, and if not on the slide, at least on the outside front of the trigger guard until on target and ready to fire the weapon. Another guideline emphasized is never to make contact with a subject when the weapon is unholstered. Rather, an officer should wait for backup or until the suspect becomes stabilized. This is also important for weapon retention. Another rule is never to draw two use-of-force instruments simultaneously with the intention of using the less lethal first to be followed by the more lethal if necessary. If an officer incorrectly assumes that O.C. spray will be adequate and then needs to escalate to deadly force, the O.C. can can be dropped and the firearm drawn. A gun in one hand and an O.C. can in the other is an unintentional discharge waiting to happen.