Do police agencies keep numerical range scores or is it just pass/fail? Some agencies are going away from the actual numerical scoring, supposedly because training records fall under the open records act and they are afraid that if an officer with a higher qualification score kills someone in an otherwise legitimate shooting that the prosecuting attorneys will ask the officer didn’t shoot to disarm, etc. How are police agencies handling this?
I believe many departments only keep pass/no pass records, but not because of the reasons stated.
It is very easy to establish in court that shooting a gun out of someones hand or shoot to disarm, etc., is not only impractical but also nearly impossible under the stress of a violent encounter. These feats are myths. What is more likely is that the departments do not want the scores of those who barely pass to be available.
For liability purposes, Pass/Fail scoring is becoming the norm. When the use of force is questioned, it is normal for the training records of the officer to come into play, and needless to say, this includes officer involved shootings.
The problem is, on paper, it makes all officers appear to have even ability. When I first started, % scores were common, and I was always PROUD to be able to consistently score 100%. However, there are always those officers who will struggle to meet the minimum (75% in our case). I’ve seen officers with poor firearm skills. Unfortunately, with a pass or fail system, the officer who struggles to pass the qualification with a minimum score (and needs several attempts to pass it), is EQUAL to the officer who passes it consistently with 100%.
When we picked our competition team, we would take the top shooters in the department and place them on the pistol team. Under a pass/fail system, there are no top shooters, everyone is equal! It used to be that exceptional ability on the range was recognized, but under the pass/fail system, you can’t do that. Pass/Fail works for liability reasons, but other than that, I think it sucks.
If you score a perfect weapons qual, and you are out on the street, a gun fight errupts, one of your bullets doesnt hit the intended target, huge law suit because of that perfect score on paper. Lawyers love that kind of case.
Some have advanced the notion that public sector firearms courses (for police and private citizens) should not keep scores, allowing pass/fail only, due to issues with liability problems. The problem, we’re told, is that assessing skill numerically could jeopardize the legal defense of an otherwise legit shooting. If the qualification records indicate the person was more skillful, the prosecution may claim the shooter should have tried other shot(s) or shoot to disarm because of their higher skill. If the qualification records indicate the person was less skillful or marginally qualified, it might be shown that the person was reckless due to a lack of skill. Thus, best not keep scores because high or low results could be used against you in court.
Wrong. As with many issues in the firearms world, much of what is taken as “truth” is merely garbage repeated endlessly. Keeping a numerical assessment of skill is necessary if skill is ever to be improved. There is no liability problem with doing this.
By definition, this sort of liability is something whose presence is likely to put one at a legal disadvantage. Such a liability needs to be based on a precedent established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts.
Such a precedent requires a preceding incident to have actually occurred. In this instance, there must be a legal case where a person’s qualification scores were successfully used in court to secure a verdict against them.
If one still believes that keeping qualification scores creates a legal liability provide the docket number of the case where this happened. Case law is based on actual filed court actions from actual events. If such a thing never occurred there is no legal precedent and any “liability” is pure conjecture and unsubstantiated opinion. A nice way of saying, “it’s bullshit.”
The lack of qualification scores will have a negative impact on training success. Avoiding this due to imaginary liability is poor practice.