|Written by Jim Polan|
Law enforcement in America is under attack. As of November 2, 2007 there have been 150 law enforcement officer deaths, which would put the profession on pace for the deadliest year since the early 1980s. So far this year there have been 58 officers killed by gunfire. The average tour of duty is ten years and 8 months, the average age is 37. Experienced veteran officers are falling for unknown reasons. In 2005 there were a total of 2,150 law enforcement officers assaulted with firearms.
A study conducted by the FBI titled "Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers" revealed that handguns were the primary choice for assaults on cops and nearly 40 percent of the offenders had some type of formal training, with many saying they improve their skills with continued training. Around 60 percent of the offenders claimed to be instinctive shooters, point and shoot with a 70 percent hit ratio.
That should prompt us to ask about our training. Too often it's "stand in one spot and when the target turns you will draw, fire two rounds, decock and holster." Even though many programs are improving, most agencies provide firearms training to satisfy liability concerns; the ability and skills test required is not realistic. Many others provide firearms training without repetition or realistic settings that should be standard procedure. Most shootings we're involved with occur in lowlight or darkness.
But when is the last time you had the opportunity to train in this environment? And even more importantly, when was the last time you requested training in this environment? According to the FBI, many offenders who operate a motor vehicle said they kept the firearm on their person. This is another reason why vehicle stops continue to be at the top of the list for officers killed and assaulted in the line of duty.
For the majority of officers who are killed on a vehicle stop, the incident is traffic- related. Again, ask yourself how many law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty while conducting a felony stop? The answer is, "not many." That's because felony stops are conducted with lots of information – the number of suspects, presumption of weapons, to name a few. Felony stops involve several officers working as a team with constant communication. Possibly the most chilling item learned from the FBI report is that 36 of the 50 officers in the study appeared to have the situation where deadly force would apply – however, they chose not to engage.
"It appeared clear that none of these officers were willing to use deadly force against an offender if other options were available," the researchers concluded. There is no legal duty to use less lethal weapons prior to the use of deadly force. Every officer has a different view of deadly force as well as the rules of engagement.
But there are too many stories these days of officers using less lethal weapons against those armed with firearms. "Don't take a knife to a gun fight." Deadly force requires deadly force. Your obligation is to stay safe and go home to your family every night.