Yes, I agree a pointed opening line. But the fact is, we are killing each other. Literally and figuratively.
A close friend was killed in a SWAT training exercise inside his department. Another professional was killed in a SWAT bus assault training. A civilian role player was killed when a .38 caliber wad cutter round was used instead of a blank. I could go on and on with more examples.
We all say we want it to stop. The question is, are we willing to do what is needed? We need to look at training in a whole new light. We need to think outside the box we've been in for the last few decades. We need to stop doing the same thing over and over again, and wondering why we are getting the same results: Increase in accidents, mishaps, accidental discharges, injuries, etc. etc. Training "the way we used to do it," or the way "we've always done it" does not work. (This was explored in a number of NMLEA White Papers and Webinars, including "Navigating the Changing Seascape of Maritime Public Safety", if you want to look deeper into the issue and causes.)
To do this, to get outside the box, we need to understand a few things from the start; Safety, accuracy and proficiently must be reintroduced and strongly integrated. Lip service will not suffice.
Let’s explore each of those three areas a little more closely.
No matter what we do, training needs to be safe, tactically sound and court defensible. The days of racking the shotgun in the police cruiser or on the patrol boat to unload it, then pulling the trigger at the end only to blow the light bar off or the radar dome on the roof of the unit, those days are over. Or are they? (That’s right I said shotgun, that tool is not dead. More on that weapon soon.)
These types of events are a clue to me (and should be to you) that our training and education is flawed. At any given patrol rifle qualification course, I have often been horrified as to the lack of safety and basic understanding of the tool in the officers’ hands. That’s just watching them trying to safely load and make ready.
This one is huge. I often hear at qualification “dude, do you sleep with that weapon, too”? Do you make yourself feel better by trying to diminish others because of your lacking skills? Some of us train on the hard skills we need to save lives; the lives of our brother and sister officers and the civilians we are sworn to serve and protect. That all starts with the fundamental importance of accuracy. But the excuses we usually hear are too typical;
“I am a combat shooter…not a target or bulls-eye guy.”
“If I don’t qualify well so what because if it comes down to it, I can get the job done.”
“Look at the shots around the vital area, those hits would bring the bad guy down.”
News flash: you are not accurate if you barely pass qualification! Why should anyone be okay with second-rate performance? Accurate shooting is a fundamental skill set we need to be proficient in because it’s the one that could get you killed, or worse, get others killed.
The LE community is now training officers to be a solo responder to active killer events. What does your accuracy standards need to be in these dynamic situations? Who is providing the type of training and education to keep that skill at a top performance level? We cannot do the basics well enough!
This is the part that is often overlooked and misunderstood. Does the patrol officer need to be as proficient as the SWAT officer? Yes! They both need to be able to operate safely in the situations they could face. When called upon to use deadly force they must be able to answer that call. The officers must use accurate, decisive and precise force. No easy task, no matter how much we train. But being fully proficient also means ensuring you can keep the weapon system running;
Continue to keep it loaded as needed.
Know when to drop a magazine, reload and drive on or when to retain a magazine if the situation affords that opportunity, reload and solve the problem.
Clearly understand stoppages and malfunctions.
Be able to execute immediate action and remedial action.
The list for proficiency goes on because it must include all weapons the officer could be called upon to use, during hours of light and hours of darkness. And let me add another element to the discussion that further illustrates and emphasizes my point: weapons use in the maritime environment. Shooting for qualification at the range every six-months does nothing to ensure proficiency of weapons use (of any type) in the confined, moving, bouncing, and fluid environment with virtually no cover, concealment or escape routes. This is magnified with the single officer out there on the water all by themselves.
As a closing thought, with the “liability” word being thrown around so often these days, what is the rationale that justifies avoidance of investing in the proper training? Good enough is no longer good enough. I hope I live long enough to see the advancement of training in our community. Until then I will do my best to seek more knowledge, explore cutting edge training techniques, work on my mind, body and skills to be able to pass along the best training I can as a teacher and student.
Contact me today to learn more about how your training, and firearms training specifically, can ensure that we are preparing our officers correctly, how we can design training that is safe, tactically sound and court defensible... especially in the maritime domain. (Click here to send Cruz a note or to find out more about any of the NMLEA's courses of instruction.)
Gregory “Cruz” Grutter is an experienced law enforcement officer, 100% Disabled Veteran, Military Wounded Warrior and Combat Veteran nominated for the Silver Star for Combat Valor, Awarded Bronze Star with Valor and Purple Heart Medal for an operation while assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), along with other prestigious awards.
A highly experienced competitive shooter, master firearms and tactics teacher and lifelong student of the tactical/shooting arts, “Cruz” was the Chief Firearms Instructor at the prestigious Smith & Wesson Academy. He was also a founding member of the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Air Marshal firearms program (Boston Office) in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He was medically retired in 2014 from the Federal Air Marshals due to his combat injuries.