Modern Police Training, Unrealistic Expectations

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None of the following is surprising to anyone knowledgeable about firearms training, which excludes most law enforcement and military personnel.

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (formerly Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education) mandates training for law enforcement in Texas. Here are their requirements for firearms:
http://www.tcole.texas.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Rules%20Handbook_101011.pdf
Page 36

§217.21. Firearms Proficiency Requirements.

(a) Each agency or entity that employs at least one peace officer shall:
(1) require each peace officer that it employs to successfully complete the current firearms proficiency requirements at least once each year;

(b) The annual firearms proficiency requirements shall include:
(1) an external inspection by the proficiency officer, range officer, firearms instructor, or gunsmith to determine the safety and functioning of the weapon(s);
(2) a proficiency demonstration in the care and cleaning of the weapon(s) used; and
(3) a course of fire that meets or exceeds the minimum standards.

(c) The minimum standards for the annual firearms proficiency course of fire shall be:
(1) handguns – a minimum of 50 rounds, including at least five rounds of duty ammunition, fired at ranges from point-blank to at least 15 yards with at least 20 rounds at or beyond seven yards, including at least one timed reload;
(2) shotguns – a minimum of five rounds of duty ammunition fired at a range of at least 15 yards;
(3) precision rifles – a minimum of 20 rounds of duty ammunition fired at a range of at least 100 yards; however, an agency may, in its discretion, allow a range of less than 100 yards but not less than 50 yards if the minimum passing percentage is raised to 90;
(4) patrol rifles – a minimum of 30 rounds of duty ammunition fired at a range of at least 50 yards, including at least one timed reload; however, an agency may, in its discretion, allow a range of less than 50 yards but not less than 10 yards if the minimum passing percentage is raised to 90;
(5) fully automatic weapons – a minimum of 30 rounds of duty ammunition fired at ranges from seven to at least 10 yards, including at least one timed reload, with at least 25 rounds fired in full automatic (short bursts of two or three rounds), and at least five rounds fired semi-automatic, if possible with the weapon.
(d) The minimum passing percentage shall be 70 for each firearm.
(e) The executive director may, upon written agency request, waive a peace officer’s demonstration of weapons proficiency based on a determination that the requirement causes a hardship.
(f) The effective date of this section is January 14, 2010.

The key points are a minimum round count for the qualification (not for any training, practice, or remedial, however…), some minimum distance requirements, a “timed” reload, and a target that is “scoreable” to ascertain that a 70% hit rate was made. “Timed” means that a time limit was stated and enforced but it can as fast (or as slow…) as the department wants. Other strings of fire don’t even require this. In practice, “scoreable” means a full-size humanoid target that has a clear edge/line to score hits or misses only.

Most departments use that point blank declaration to the hilt. When I was an adjunct instructor for AACOG in San Antonio, the qualification we used had 88% of the shots fired at 21 feet or less and 20% shot at three feet from retention and incorporating movement. Everything at nine feet and less was shot one handed and all shots within potential contact distance of the target shot from retention. The few timed strings of fire had generous time limits; many strings were untimed. And our course was more difficult than those used at most agencies.

Foolish people believe this is “progressive” because the distances are more in line with real-world engagements (which is certainly a good idea) however the fatal flaw is these qualifications routinely fail to enforce a time standard more in line with a “speed of life” pace that real engagements will likely take place.

https://firearmusernetwork.com/aacog-leo-pistol-qualification/
https://firearmusernetwork.com/im-a-responsible-gun-owner-seriously/

What you end up with is a qualification that is a relaxed, sedate, inaccurate pus-spraying non-event accepting 70% of the fired rounds slowly splattering a barn-door silhouette anywhere. And then said officer misses most shots when/if forced to do it fast and under stress. Frankly, I’m surprised they managed a 35% “bullet level” hit rate given how lame the course is accepting 70%

Noted trainer and high-level competitive shooter Karl Rehn did a break down of the Dallas Police Department qual course:
http://blog.krtraining.com/shooting-the-dallas-pd-qualification-course-of-fire/

Dallas PD Pistol Qualification Course
Round Count: 50
Target: TQ-15
Passing Score: 80% (200/250)

Stage I – 3 yards: From holster, draw and fire five rounds strong hand only in 10 seconds; transfer weapon to support hand and remain at low ready. When targets turn fire five rounds in 10 seconds, support hand only. (10 total rounds this stage)

Stage II – 7 yards: From holster, fire five rounds in 10 seconds; targets turn away; remain at low ready. When targets turn, fire five rounds in 10 seconds and return to low ready. Targets turn again and again, fire five rounds in 10 seconds. (15 total rounds this stage)

Stage IIa – 7 yards: Set up pistol with five total rounds on board and two five round magazines in pouch. When targets face, draw and fire five rounds; slide lock reload; fire five more rounds, execute a second slide locked reload and then fire five more rounds in 30 seconds total. (15 total rounds in this stage)

Stage III – 15 yards: Draw and fire five rounds in 15 seconds. (5 total rounds this stage)

Stage IV – 25 yards: Shooter starts one step right and one step behind barricade. When targets face, move to cover, draw and fire five rounds in 30 seconds. (5 total rounds this stage)

These test standards are NOT the answer to the question “what level of proficiency is desired to have acceptable performance in a gunfight?“. They are the answer to the question “what are the lowest possible standards that can be used to assess whether someone is a danger to themselves or others if armed in public?”

– Karl Rehn

Qualification courses this weak are the norm among military personnel as well. It’s worth noting that a two seconds per shot pace is used during Precicion Pistol (Bullseye) National Match Course competition, however, competitors are doing that one-handed at 25 yards on a target with a bullseye (nine-ring) 5.5 inches and a 3-inch ten ring inside, not a full-size TQ-15 silhouette using most of the 24×40″ sheet it’s printed on.

Contrast this to Mr. Rehn’s useful Three Seconds or Less which can summed further as stating defensive shooters need the ability to move offline (left or right), present from concealment/duty rig, and land three center hits at three yards/meters/paces in less than three seconds. Mr. Givens and his 63+ gunfight-winning students suggest training your first hit to land in about 1.5 seconds.

From Tom Givens

https://www.policeone.com/police-training/articles/482251006-New-study-on-shooting-accuracy-How-does-your-agency-stack-up/

Hitting (or missing) the mark: An examination of police shooting accuracy in officer-involved shooting incidents
https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/PIJPSM-05-2018-0060?journalCode=pijpsm

The Force Science Institute recently reported on a study conducted by several researchers who used the Dallas Police Department as an example of a modern, big city police department’s firearms training and field performance. The researchers were shocked at how poorly the DPD officers did in actual shootings in the field, a reaction generally shared by members of the public at large when they find out how dismal typical police performance with firearms really is, as opposed to the Hollywood movie/TV version of how cops shoot.

The mindset of the researchers can be summed up by this quote from their study: “although the amount- and quality- of firearms training received by officers over the last century has improved considerably, there appears to have been little improvement in shooting accuracy”. Implicit in that quote is an assumption that today’s officers get a lot of firearms training, and that the training received effectively prepares them for armed conflict. Wrong!

First, their findings. From 2003-2017 the Dallas Police Department had 231 Officer Involved Shootings (OIS). A number of these involved multiple officers, so to get a better picture of individual performance, the researchers discarded those and looked only at incidents in which a single officer fired at a single suspect. They found 149 OIS’s that met that criterion.

They looked at hit rates in two ways, “incident level” and “bullet level”. On an “incident level” basis, they found that officers got at least one hit, regardless of the number of rounds fired, in about 54% of the shootings, just barely over half of the time.

However, on a “bullet level” basis, they found that out of 354 shots fired, there was only a 35% hit rate. One-half of all officers missed with every shot they fired, including one officer who fired 23 misses and no hits. This means that six out of every ten shots fired was a miss. How does this happen?

Let’s look at this “amount – and quality- of firearms training” in Dallas, which is actually a very representative sample. Officers qualify with their firearms once per year. That’s right, once. The course of fire they “qualify” on is a joke, essentially a sobriety test for anyone with any skill at all with a gun. I, or any other competent private sector trainer, could take a brand new shooter, with no prior training or experience, and have them pass this course of fire at the end of one day of range training. DPD officers receive “firearms training” once every two years, consisting of 50-100 rounds of firing in exercises and scenarios. That’s it.

Now, let’s take someone who does not know how to drive a car. We’ll give them a few days of driving instruction, but only at very low speed in the empty parking lot, with no traffic. They will then not drive at all for a year. After a year, we’ll have them drive the car from Point A to Point B on the parking lot, again with no traffic. Then, again no more driving once they leave the lot. Some nine months after that, they will be directed to respond to a life-threatening crisis by jumping in a car and roaring off at 120 miles per hour on an expressway filled with traffic. Think they would do well? That’s exactly what DPD does with their officers when it comes to firearms.

The bottom line is, most police departments don’t care if their officers can shoot well. They don’t care about the officers’ welfare nor about the public’s safety. “Qualification” once per year has been consistently held to be inadequate by U.S. courts, yet it is still the standard in many areas. “Training” every two years is criminally negligent, but that’s “good enough” for these agencies.

Learn from this example. Whether you are a law enforcement officer, or Joe Citizen with a carry permit, the agency you work for or who issued your license is NOT responsible for your life. You are! Seek out competent training. Make time for relevant practice. Handle your emergency life-saving equipment often enough to obtain and maintain proficiency with it. Remember that recency trumps almost everything in retention of motor skills, so get to the range more than once a year. One day you may be very glad you “exceeded the mandated standard”.

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Train like you Fight

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Wisdom from Frank Proctor

We’ve all heard it or said it: Train like you Fight. A lot of times, folks think that means wearing full kit in order to train to better shoot your gun. I disagree with the party line that you have to wear full battle rattle to train to shoot better.

For tactical shooters I would strongly recommend shooting ‘slick with no kit’ and learn what they can truly do with their guns, what their full capabilities are, how fast can they really put bullets on targets, maneuver through a challenging course of fire, get into positions, etc. Once that base line of what’s possible is established then put your duty gear on and see if you can still do the same stuff.

If you can’t, why?

If it’s because your body armor is too restrictive, there are plenty of ways to keep the defensive capabilities of your body armor AND be mobile and able to mount your gun to shoot well, and give yourself and your team mates some valuable OFFENSIVE capabilities. This concept applies to all the gear you carry to duty; if it hinders your optimal performance I would fix it or get rid of it and stay as light as possible.

Here’s a proven concept that we all as tactical shooters can use to ‘Train to Win’. Every organized sports team in the country (especially the ones that win) use a similar concept to train. Football teams don’t go full speed in pads everyday in practice. That would be the conventional shooter’s wisdom of “train like you fight”. What they do instead is break down individual skill sets and train them to perfection. Then they’ll put on the pads and put all those things together and scrimmage. They take note of what went well and what didn’t go well, and then they take off the pads and train again. When it comes game time they are prepared to WIN.

Competitive Shooting: Not Just a Game

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Field Notes Ep. 13, Competitive Shooting with Robert Vogel, Not Just a Game.

It’s worth noting that Mr. Vogel won his first national championship using the same firearm he carried on duty as a law enforcement officer.

More from Robert Vogel:
https://firearmusernetwork.com/tag/robert-vogel/

Rooney Guns FTW!

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I am old enough to remember when USPSA started creating different equipment divisions. In fact, my first serious attempt at competition shooting was in their Limited division soon after it was first adopted.

The open/unlimited “race gun” had become the runaway favorite for serious competitors and they deviate from a “normal” carry/service pistol. This led to detractors deriding the development as “rooney guns” as something simply unsuitable for street and service use.
https://firearmusernetwork.com/tag/rooney-gun/

Now, don’t tell anyone, but equipment divisions are far less important than most people realize, especially those complaining about them:
https://firearmusernetwork.com/race-guns-vs-regular-guns/
https://firearmusernetwork.com/skill-classification-works/

Houston PD: Pistol Red Dot Sights Approved For Duty Use

In what may be the largest adoption of red dot sights on pistols to date, the Houston Police Department has issued a letter to sworn officers approving the optics for duty use. The approval comes along with some common-sense caveats; a Safariland level III Holster must be used, optics-ready pistols from specified manufacturers and the completion of an eight hour training course prior to putting the RDS into service.

The move towards the use of micro red dot sights by military and law enforcement has been gaining steam in the past few years with special teams and units being allowed to field the technology on a more case-by-case process. With more than 5,000 officers on staff Houston PD is set to take the lead on electronic sight use in U.S. law enforcement.

More:
https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2018/07/05/houston-red-dot-sights/

This is not a new development, just a police department formally authorizing their use:
https://firearmusernetwork.com/competition-shooting-ftw/

This part is most important:

The resulting data from required qualifications (scores using a red dot versus irons), fielding (models, mechanical/electronic failures) battery life and other variables will be important to law enforcement and civilian shooters alike. Real-world field testing is invaluable when it comes to picking the best guns, sights, holsters and related gear. Let’s hope that Houston PD is willing to share sanitized data.

Here’s the sad downer. The Department of Army first adopted general-issue optics in the mid-1990s and retained the same qualification procedures and course since 2018. Qualification scores have not changed. As always, it’s the indian, not the arrow.

Competition and Real World Results

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I’ve been asking for examples of how competitive shooting experience went wrong. Coming from a competitive background, my bias tends toward competitive shooting being a good thing. That’s why I’m reaching out to folks that can provide counter examples.

Here’s one such report. Thanks to Phil Wong, the “Tactical Cliff Clavin”:

Competition Real World Results 1

Competition Real World Results 2

Competition Real World Results 3

Original discussion:

Use Timers?

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We happen to work regularly with folks who count days between gunfights. Not if they will fight with gun(s) but how soon again they do it. They work with timers. They also don’t talk on internet forums.

– Ken Nelson

Real face shooters train with people like Robby, Dave and Jerry. They certainly use timers. The fantasy camp face shooters are the ones who hate reliable metrics for tracking performance.
They would rather buy the latest plate carrier than actually practice.

– Scott Thompson

Shooting Match Gear vs Real World

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As a young kid new to shooting, I had wanted to attend a “proper” shooting school, but I gave finances, high school and college, and military duties precedence. Having learned about IPSC through Jeff Cooper’s writings and finding a local USPSA club, I attended local competitions instead.

When first taking up practical shooting I believed the hype of only using street-real equipment as I wanted to avoid developing “bad habits.” Using a real-world pistol and holster that would have been openly welcomed at any defensive shooting school, I taught myself to reliably draw to a centered hit at seven yards in about 1.5 seconds, with the fast runs hovering in the 1.4s.

The competitive bug was biting me harder. I quickly realized that hypothetical criminal assault in my rural farming community where Holsteins outnumbered humans was highly unlikely and decided I’d rather win matches that actually occurred. I saved up for and bought a competition-specific rig and dry practiced a bit to set it up. At my first range session with the brand new go-fast gear I could reliably draw to a centered hit at seven yards in about 1.5 seconds, with the fast runs hovering in the 1.4s.

The gear wasn’t at fault. I was.

Score sheets and classifier results readily identify the better performers, which are the folks with the best training processes and habits. Observing and learning from them at matches and group practice sessions, then doing plenty of work on my own in between, let me cut those times in half, working down to 0.7s.

About this time, gunsmith Richard Heinie had started the 1911 Society and hosted an annual match called the Single Stack Classic. It was the first practical pistol match bigger than a local or state-level match attracting national-level champions being held within a reasonable driving distance and I decided to attend. Of course, my fancy go-fast gear wouldn’t be allowed and I needed to revert to my old “street-legal” Gunsite-approved equipment.

Tactical types often cry doom about match-specific equipment, giving me concerns of hurling my handgun downrange during bobbled draws due to “bad habits” caused by gamer/match race gear.

I ran a few short dry practice sessions over the course of several days and then hit the range. At that first session with practical gear I hadn’t used in a long time, I could reliably draw to a centered hit at seven yards in about 1.0 seconds, with the fast runs hovering in the 0.9s.

I never experienced “bad habit” problems during any practice sessions or matches, just improved performance.

Of course, I cheated. I probably logged more good dry repetitions in the three days prior to that first range session than most law enforcement and military personnel do in three years and then kept that schedule up through the match.

The real difference was I had greatly improved my skills and had developed the proper habits to do so. Even though it was with match-grade equipment, the carryover was direct and immediate. It took very little time and effort to re-acquaint myself to the different equipment. My fundamental skill with shooting and gunhandling was simply better and it helped across the board, even with equipment that I didn’t normally use.

My experience is not unique:
http://melodylauer.com/kilt-in-the-streetz-all-the-things-i-was-supposed-to-forget-under-stress/

TL;DR
Get better with something – anything – and prove this “better” occurred by validating it as being better in a formal, scored competitive environment.

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