Monday, August 13, 2012

Police At The Range

Police familiarity (or not) with weapons is a perennial topic wherever gunnies are found and perhaps nowhere more than at the range.

Sunday, not so much, but Eagle Creek Park Pistol Range is IMPD's home range through the week and I believe it gets used for training that includes other nearby departments, so the general subject was on my mind as I drove home from an hour of making .22 bullets go downrange.

The Usual Lines:

1. LEO shows up first time at a public range, and assumes his (or her) badge/training/whatever confers some kind Police Specialness that exempts him from whatever safety-lecture (test, release form, etc.) boilerplate the range uses. General harrumphing ensues. --Okay, kids, he is in the wrong, but be gentle; a lot of police are not hobby-shooters, many are rarely around ranges (thanks to scant training budgets and shorter available time) and they're used to being the only person in their immediate vicinity who knows which end the fast lead comes out of. There's going to be a learning curve.

2. LEO shows up and is not all that great a shot. --What, you expected them to all be snipers? See above, and bear in mind that while police are armed, they really aren't getting paid to go be low, middle and high justice, ventilatin' malefactors right and left; just like you, if Officer Friendly's got to shoot outside a range, something went badly wrong. Neverthless, mild amusement is often the end result at the range if the cops are making Swiss cheese.

Fun though it may be to channel a little indignation or amusement, I think that's a bad approach.

It's important to make law-enforcement folks feel welcome and comfortable and if they don't know the ropes, don't be any more harsh than you would be to any newbie -- and this is not because they are a specially special bunch to whom y'should kowtow but because this is one group of individuals out there in the world you can count on to be armed -- and who are, in fact, expected to use deadly force in some situations. We -- you, me, society in general -- are better off when the police are good shots. They get better the same way everyone else does: by practicing. Their department is unlikely to go much past whatever the minimum requirement might be, and where does that leave the LEO who wants to improve?

It leaves him or her in the lane next to yours, trying to grasp a cultural niche police are not necessarily all that familiar with. They need to be; we need 'em to grok that "unbadged citizen with a gun" is not usually a bad thing -- and we need them to shoot well when they've got to shoot.

You don't have to be a holster-sniffer -- heck, you don't even have to all that fond of your local Protecters-And-Servers -- to understand that some day, you could be in the vicinity of live fire by the police -- and far better they should hit their target than hit you. (Or even, [TINFOIL HAT ON], should the balloon go up, far better they swap fire with you and not take out Mary Lou Bystander, age 6, in the process [TINFOIL HAT OFF].)

Treat law enforcers like any other citizen at the range -- because that's what they are. No better and no worse.


The Big Guy said...

Only have a second to reply but wanted to make a comment...

I must disagree to a point-
Gun-carrying LEOs should be at LEAST as good as most hobby-shooters. They don't have to be snipers, but if carrying a firearm is a requirement of your job, you better know how to use it better than the average Joe.
If a greenhorn shows up, practicing his skills, give him room and encouragement.
A 30 vertran that can't hit the 9 or 10 ring consistently deserves contempt. Shame on him.

Upon taking employment as a LEO, an officer should make range time a priority, until safe and accurate shooting is part of muscle memory, then then make time to stay proficient. No slacking off...
It shoule be an issue of personal committment.

You wouldn't expect a semi driver to know only how to drive that truck down an interstate- he better know how to back it down a narrow loading dock or maneuver downtown streets in addition to know laws and regulations regarding his job.
A computer tech/IT Professional should know more than just flopping a desktop down and plugging in a monitor & keyboard.
He better know switches and routers, VLANs, NICs and the pinout of a cat-5 cable. He better know OSs, AV, licensing and end user agreements. (Unless of course, he enjoys getting his company slapped with a hefty fine for copyright violations.)

Sorry- If part of an officer's issued equipment is a tool capable of killing an innocent bystander through negligence on the part of the handler, he better be as close to perfect as time, effort, and dedication can make him.
Otherwise, get a desk job like any other slacker.
[/soapbox off]


Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

I'm going to have to agree with The Big Guy here. Part of Officer Friendly's job is to deliberately insert himself into those situations where something has gone badly wrong and he might have to shoot outside a range. If he can't hit a man sized target at 25 yards on a quiet range, he has no business walking a beat, because when the fecal matter impacts the rotating airscrew out in the real world he'll almost certainly do even worse.

The new guy certainly needs support and encouragement, and a helpful teaching hand. Any cop that's been a cop for more than a year and can't shoot minute of bad guy at that range with no pressure needs a slap to the back of the head - and then a helping hand and encouragement.

Panamared said...


While your points are well made, they don't even approach my observed reality. The most important thing for every sworn officer is to know and follow procedures.

Most officers still never pull there firearm on duty, despite what you see on your favorite cop show.

I would reinforce Roberta's point if an officer shows any interest in improving his shooting skills,
be as friendly and helpful as possible.

Earl said...

It is important that professionals get to practice their performance. I find the idea that the police are no better or worse than the rest of us too often lost on the rest of us and by the worst of the police, luckily there aren't tons of bad police in most areas.
Civil interest in all people showing up at your favorite activity will get you an opportunity to make new buddies, or at least be involved in more communication than shouting at the television monitor or flaming at the forum. Did the Romans do that?

Anonymous said...

While not evidence, a significant minority of the sworn folks I've encountered at the range have the same interest in guns as they do in their patrol vehicle or their uniform. It's required for the job, nothing more.
Others, of course are afficiandos and some are just a**holes, regardless of equipment interest.
I suggest we treat everyone with politeness and caution, until they show us who they are.
It's only right.

LabRat said...

Should be and is don't live in the same country.

Go home and rant about the travesty that is officers that can't shoot after, but at the time... Roberta has the right prescription. At the end of the shame-on-you we have what, exactly?

In that far-off land of should-be we maybe have a newly inspired steely determination to become Jeff Cooper, but here in is we like as not have someone who'd rather not go back to the place where citizens-with-guns were dicks to him for no good reason he can see.

Keads said...

Well put Roberta! I see my share of LEO and some approach the yearly qualification live fire with dread. To some, it is simply another tool, much like the radio or laptop.

In our fund raiser for the domestic violence shelter there is a separate class for LEO. Civilian times are always shorter.

NotClauswitz said...

I'm OK with the Police in general as humanoid bipeds wandering the same dirt planet in search of love and enlightenment and the occasional Good Time, but what if you want to be a Good Neighbor Joe and all, but still can't penetrate their snooty hackles-up Copitude?

Charles Pergiel said...

...that "unbadged citizen with a gun" is not usually a bad thing...

I've been thinking that a very small percentage of people carry guns on a regular basis, like less than 1%. I would like to think honest people outweigh the troublemakers in this category, but do they?

Roberta X said...

NotC: in that case, too bad for him/her/whatever! Can't win 'em all over.

Crucis said...

I used to shoot IDPA a decade ago. Our local group included some members of the KCPD swat team.

They were the most careless, dangerous shooters in the group. No one wanted to referee when they were up. Even standing behind them wasn't all that safe. One actually fired into the groud two feet behind him when drawing.