Back to the Writers Policy Academy for a recap of a session on Police Gunfighting. Our speaker for this presentation was Rick McMahan of the ATF, who talked to us about the use of firearms by Law Enforcement Officers. According to an FBI study in the 1980s, most shootings took place at distances of under 3 yards, took about 3 seconds, and about 3 rounds were fired. The hit ratio was about 20%. He pointed out that in the 80s, revolvers were the primary weapons.
Training has improved markedly since they. Now, they try to make the training conditions as much like what officers are likely to encounter in the field as possible. He spoke of being an FBI agent in the field back “in the day” when their primary assignments were to conduct interviews. They didn’t carry radios, so if things went south, they were in trouble.
McMahan told us that there are approximately 900,000 LEOs, and 160 die in the line of duty every year. One officer dies every 53 hours.
He spoke of the skill set they try to develop in LEOs: firearms skills, the legalities, morals, and ethics, tactics, and the warrior mentality.
Police officers use the force necessary to stop the threat, and no more. They will secure a suspect and search him before offering medical aid.
McMahan is a firearms instructor. He said that when he teaches, he begins with the assumption that his trainees know nothing. He starts with the basic handling of the weapon, safety, and how to “drive” the weapon system in a stressful environment.
Training is critical because we’re all hard-wired with the “fight/flight” reaction. When this kicks in, fine motor skills deteriorate. Less blood flows to the brain. This is why most firearms training stresses gross motor skills. During shootouts, the officer is likely to experience tunnel vision, so they’re trained to widen their field of vision. There’s also auditory exclusion, so they’re not hearing what’s going on around them. And time is distorted. The training works to develop muscle memory, which requires from 3–5000 repetitions of the motions so they’re ingrained.
He pointed out that there are no Time Outs in cop work. The mentality is “Never Give Up. Never Stop.” (Lee Lofland, in one of his recent Castle reviews pointed out that the writers got it “right” when two cops were being overpowered by a suspect. They kept fighting.) From his blog entry: What I found to be realistic in this scene was that Ryan and Espo did not give up. Instead, they fought the fight until the behemoths were in cuffs, and the suspect was in custody. That’s how it’s done in real life, too. Cops don’t give up. Once they commit to an arrest, they see it through until the cuffs are on and the bad guy is in their custody. The time to worry about the bruises and cuts is later.
McMahan also shared some common movie errors, including the following:
Police will chamber a round before going into action. Wrong. There’s ALWAYS a round in the chamber. Racking the slide would simply eject a bullet, and nobody wants to be minus what might be a critical round. (But it sounds good on TV). If you don’t have a round chambered, you’re carrying a paperweight.
Being hit by bullets causes people to fly through the air.
Police fire warning shots.
He closed with his personal Rules of a Gunfight.
1. Avoid them.
2. Have a gun—at least 2
3. Bring all your friends who have guns.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society