Rare Birds In New York City
by John Veit

Based on the New York Police Department’s 2011 Annual Firearms Discharge Report, officers rarely discharge their firearm intentionally during confrontations with subjects.

There were only 36 such instances in 2011, in a city of 8.2 million people, with a Department of nearly 35,000 uniformed members, who interacted with citizens 22+ million times.

There were more than 28,000 instances in which an officer took an armed subject into custody without firing his or her weapon.

In the 36 cases of note, only 82 officers of the total of nearly 35,000 were involved (.2 percent).

19 subjects were injured. And 9 were killed. 1 bystander was killed.

5 officers were shot and injured (2 by friendly fire).

1 officer was shot and killed in an incident that was not an NYPD discharge.

Background and policy information on the subject area is presented in the report, along with many data tables, and shooting stats such as: shots fired, distances involved, use of the sights, etc..

Some of the particulars are below.

The full report in PDF form, is available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/nypd_annual_firearms_discharge_report_2011.pdf



The average number of cases of intentional firearms discharge during a confrontation with a subject, was 50 per year over the past ten years.


Of the officers discharging their firearms, 69 percent fired five or fewer times.

At the other end of the scale, three officers fired 16 rounds each, emptying their firearms.

“…More than a quarter of the officers discharging their firearms in adversarial conflict incidents only fired one shot…. Sixty-one percent of the incidents involved five or fewer shots being fired…. In 31 percent of adversarial conflict incidents, the total number of shots fired by all police officers involved, was one.”


No officer reloaded in any incident.


The Department does not calculate average hit percentages. Instead, the objective completion rate per incident (whether he or she ultimately hits and stops the subject), is used to gauge success. It is determined irrespective of the number of shots fired at the subject. Per the report, it is more accurate and more instructive than the use of hit percentages.

In the 36 incidents, officers hit at least one subject per incident 28 times, for an objective completion rate of 78 percent.

When officers were being fired upon, they struck subjects two thirds of the time for an objective completion rate of 66.6 percent (six out of nine incidents).


“Utilizing a two-handed grip, standing, and lining up a target using the firearm’s sights is the preferred method of discharging a firearm, but it is not always practical during an adversarial conflict. Of officers reporting their shooting techniques, 71 percent gripped the firearm with two hands. Sixty percent of officers who reported their stance, stated that they were standing, while 31 percent were moving or struggling.

“Finally, thirty-four officers reported whether or not they had used their sights, with 44 percent reporting in the affirmative.”

Given that stat, 56 percent of the officers shot without use of the sights.


“Although officers are trained to fire on a target from as far away as 75 feet, the majority of adversarial conflict discharges occur when the officer is closer than fifteen feet to the subject.”

Based on FBI data, if you are going to be shot, there is an 80% chance that it will happen at less than 20 feet.

“NYPD firearms training also emphasizes weapons control. With regard to shooting technique, the mechanics of pistol shooting in a controlled environment include proper grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and breath control. All of these require a degree of concentration and fine motor skills. Unfortunately, in a combat situation, concentration and fine motor skills are sometimes among the first casualties. Training can mitigate this, but officers must be taught to rely on mechanical actions that employ gross motor skills and have as few components as possible.”

The report is silent as to just what those actions are, and if they actually are taught. Marksmanship mechanics do not fit the bill.

The report also is silent as to whether or not the NYPD teaches officers one of the effective close quarters shooting techniques that do not utilize the sights. The hit rate clearly indicates that the NYPD does not do that.


The official use of the objective completion rate validates the reality that achieving marksmanship mechanics in close quarters combat, is “a bridge to far.”

Its use, also supports the thought that teaching the use of the sights for aiming in real life threat close quarters defensive situations, is just a game played on those citizens who bought a gun for self defense with the thought in mind that they would be able to use it effectively in their self defense. And the same can be said in regard to teaching distance shooting to citizens for self defense use, or the inclusion of combat reloading in drills and training courses.

The objective completion rate does provide better public relations copy than the use of hit rates.The rub is that the hit rate is a clear indicator of whether or not there is a need to train officers in a more effective shooting method. And not using it, runs counter to the stated purpose of the report which… “is to ensure that the NYPD’s training is the best it can be.”


“In total, 311 shots were fired by officers during the adversarial conflict incidents….”

“An appurtenance of the NYPD’s small number of shootings is that a single anomalous exchange of high-volume gunfire can noticeably distort the real picture.

“There were two such outliers in 2011—one incident in which eight officers fired 73 rounds, and another in which eight officers fired 45 rounds. Both incidents involved armed subjects firing on police or civilians, and combined they accounted for 38 percent of all the shots fired in all adversarial conflict incidents.”

Using the total shots fired, the hit rate in the 36 adversarial-conflict incidents was 12% (36/311).

Discarding the two high volume of shots fired incidents, the hit rate was 19% (36/193).




There were 36 incidents involving 43 animals and 43 officers.
“A total of 79 shots were fired by officers during animal-attack incidents…. Seventy percent of officers discharging their firearms fired only one time, and no officer fired more than six rounds. In three out of every four animal attacks, two or fewer rounds were fired.

“Of the 43 animals involved, 31 were struck. At least one animal was hit in 29 of the 36 incidents. This yields a per-incident objective completion rate of 81 percent per incident, slightly higher than the objective completion rate during adversarial conflict (78 percent) and noticeably higher than the objective completion rate of adversarial conflict officers under fire (66 per-cent). A likely explanation for this is the proximity of the animal to the shooter in most animal-attack incidents, as well as the fact that the animal, unlike a human opponent, does not make any attempt to avoid gunfire.”


“Of officers who reported their shooting techniques, only 32 percent report gripping the firearm with two hands, which is radically divergent from the 71 percent of officers involved in adversarial conflict who used a two-handed grip.

“This likely stems from the fact that animal attacks are often abrupt, close-quartered affairs, in which the animal rushes towards the officer and the officer seeks to ward off the animal even as he or she draws and fires.

“In all but one incident, the animal was within five yards of the officer.

“Only three officers (7 percent of those reporting) used their sights when discharging their firearm during these confrontations, which is dramatically different from the 44 percent of reporting officers who used sights during adversarial conflict. This, too, likely derives from the immediacy and proximity of most animal attacks.”


This is a link to an article on NYPD training that is based upon a Rand Corporation study which was paid for by the NYPD: http://www.pointshooting.com/randinfo.htm