YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT
OF POLICE COMBAT SITUATIONS
The type and amount of
firearms training which should be given to a police officer has been subject or
discussion for many years. The discussion still continues
of the training, philosophy and mechanics was taken directly from the military
services. Some of it was
inspired by descriptions of gunfights as set forth in stories of the wild, wild,
west. Still another source
was the imagination of the handgun enthusiast who attempted to adapt his hobby
to law enforcement. Sometimes
the training seemed to be appropriate because police officers were able to
survive life-threatening situations. In other cases the result bore out the fact
that something was lacking in the training.
when the training was supported by a good result, no one was sure why it had
worked. Certainly no one knew
why the results were bad because had they known, the techniques would have been
was this lack of certainty as to the relationship between training and results
that led the New York City Police Department to establish a new reporting and
investigative system of evaluating serious police encounters.
This procedure for in-depth documenting and studying police use of
firearms and assaults on police was instituted by the Firearms and Tactics
Section in 1969.
was designated Department Order SOP 9 (s. 69).
9 (s. 69) includes a very detailed reporting form which is designed to get the
complete experience of each officer involved in a hostile police action where a
weapon was used by and/or against him and to record it in the standard format.
The officer's report is accompanied by his supervisor's report in
narrative form. Both are
reviewed by one of the firearms instructors and the training supervisor in the
Firearms and Tactics Section.
9 (s. 69) has provided detailed accounts of the circumstances surrounding each
serious confrontation involving members of the Department since January 1, 1970.
It has been the source of realistic statistics which have resulted in
significant changes in the firearms training program.
No longer does the training include only the mechanical skills related to
shooting. It now emphasizes,
equally, the situational and tactical use of police weapons.
is important to consider that, despite the fact that these data come from New
York City, they are not just applicable to a skyscraper environment.
The city has a wide variety of neighborhoods.
In addition to the towering structures of Manhattan, it has numerous
suburban communities, beaches, large parks, deserted and remote areas,
interstate highways, swamps, islands, lakes, rivers and ocean fronts.
As a result, it is highly likely that the lessons learned from SOP 9 (s.
69) are important to police officers everywhere.
The following is a
brief review of the more than 6,000 cases detailed in SOP 9 reports which have
involved the deaths of 49 officers at the hands of assailants, another 256 shot
and wounded, and 216 who were stabbed.
TYPES OF SITUATIONS
Element of Surprise
has been theorized that most police officers were killed or seriously injured as
a result of routine incidents which suddenly escalated into deadly
confrontations. That theory became questionable as a result of SOP 9.
70% of the cases reviewed, the officer had some previous knowledge of the danger
he was about to encounter. Responding
to, or interrupting, felonies in progress, shots fired or "man with gun”1
runs, investigating suspicious persons or disorderly man calls account for
the majority of deaths or injuries.
in which rapid escalation occurred were most often activities considered
routine, such as car stops, guarding, transporting or fingerprinting prisoners
or handling people with mental problems. Family disputes did not prove to be
high on the police danger list.
reports, supported by follow-up interviews with the participants in deadly
confrontations, indicate that in stress situations the officer invariably
resorts to techniques learned during training exercises. This is true regardless
of whether there was prior knowledge of danger or whether there was an element
of surprise. For that reason,
response procedures, tactics and situational use of weapons are as vital a part
of firearms training as the teaching of marksmanship skills.
exercises, role-playing skits and self-assessment situations can be a vital part
of the firearms training program. It will aid in developing proper attitudes and
sharpen reaction time by exposing the officer to at least a simulation of what
he is likely to encounter on the street.
Including situations which will instruct in the patterns of dangerous
encounters will teach the when, why and how to employ firearms and point out the
possible options available.
Attacks and Ambushes
and ambush incidents represent less of 1% of the cases reported.
The so-called routine police incidents represented a far greater danger.
to reduce injuries in these situations centers on tactics rather than hardware.
It accentuates essential general police patrol techniques as the best
precautionary safeguard against sudden attacks.
some of the validated cases, it appeared that good patrol technique would have
neutralized the situation. In
others, it was clear that moving swiftly out of the line of fire or, when that
was not possible, seeking Immediate cover was crucial. A sniper has all of the elements for success on his
side: Surprise, concealment planned
encounter, unsuspecting target. The
proper sequence of response is to take cover, then attempt to locate the
assailant and respond.
number of adversaries and the number of officers present when an action takes
place is significant in the development of a realistic training program.
Reports on incidents involving police death revealed that the officer was
alone more often than not and that he was confronted by at least two people.
In the deadly encounters in which the officer survived, and in cases
where more than one officer was present, more than one assailant was involved
half~of the time It is
clear that officers must be trained in situations which will instruct them in
the techniques of using their revolver or shotgun when dealing with two or more
multiple adversaries requires skilled use of weapons and great mental
discipline. The officer must
force himself to concentrate with “tunnel-like” vision on one target, no
matter how briefly, and engage that target completely before changing to
another. Primary target
selection is vital although there may not be much choice.
The primary target should be the individual who presents the greatest or
most immediate danger. Subsequent targets should be selected on the same basis.
Setting up a hypothetical case illustrates the principle.
officer is dispatched to a robbery in progress. He is confronted by three men.
One is armed with a sawed-off shotgun, one with a pistol and the other with a
large hunting knife. The distance is thirty feet.
Which of the three should become the first target for the officer?
What if the man with the knife is five feet away and the other two thirty
Experience dictates that cover and
maneuverability offer the best chance for success in
SOP 9 (5. 69) study and the "Killed in the Line of Duty" survey
disclosed that in over 70% of the cases reported, the location of deadly
encounters was out-of-doors the
street, sidewalk, alley, roof or park.
Another 25% took place indoors in hallways, apartments, basements,
stores, banks and bars. In
two cases, the locations were churches.
coupled with the use of cover, was the principal factor to which preventing a
violent attack was attributed. These two key elements were achieved through a
planned response even though the plan may have been superficial and quickly
element reported as the single most important factor in the officer's survival
during an armed confrontation was cover. Because of this determination, use of
cover is included in firing line exercises and is stressed by the firearms
instructors. As has been pointed out, in a stress situation an officer is likely
to react as he was trained to react.
is almost always some type of cover available but it may not be recognized as
such without training. Outdoors there are trees, utility poles, automobiles,
trash cans, mail boxes, fire hydrants, and a multitude of other objects.
Indoors, a store counter, filing cabinets or furniture can serve the purpose'.
Although the standard 'barricade position is a good beginning, the officer needs
the opportunity, in training to learn the use of the type of cover which may be
available to him in realistic situations. These common items are readily
available, usually without cost for use in training.
They offer a very practical supplement to basic firearms training and the
practicality of the training is quite apparent to the trainee.
majority of incidents in which officers used their firearms occurred in poor
lighting conditions. None
occurred in what could be called total darkness. Some light was always available. It was also noted that flashlights were not used as a
marksmanship aid. They were
used only as a searchlight and to find proper footing in dim light.
They were also used in a number of instances as a substitute for the
prime concern in dim light situations is target identification.
The officer should not be trained to fire at muzzle flashes, noises,
through walls or closed doors. He must be trained to hold his fire until he has
positive knowledge that the target is a proper one.
for dim light conditions necessarily involves the flashlight.
Although it is an invaluable tool when needed to get around in dim light,
signal at accidents, or read papers, it must be used with caution.
This is especially true when a combat confrontation is a possibility.
flashlight should be used from behind cover whenever possible.
It should be kept low and as far from the center of the body mass as
possible. It should not be
kept lighted for extended periods.
most acceptable type of flashlight is one of tube configuration, dark colored
and equipped with a button and slide switch.
In an armed confrontation only the button should be used since the light
will go off if dropped.
light firing involves still another element which is different from full light
firing, muzzle flash. Muzzle
flash from the off-duty gun may be more distracting than that of the service gun
since, in many cases, they have shorter barrels. Dim light training, then, must
involve use of both weapons. See
appendix for dim light firing course
distances Involved In Instances reported under SOP 9 (s. 69) remained fairly
consistent over the ten years in which it has been in effect.
In fact, the encounters resulting in an officer's death have remained
almost identical for the past 125 years. Patrolman James Cahill was killed on
September 29, 1854 at approximately the same distance (less than three feet) as
David Guttenberg on December 29, 1978.
distances involved are a most Important element In the development of a
realistic firearms training program.
It has been said that if a man can hit a target at 50 yards he can
certainly do the same at three feet.
The reports do not bear out that assumption.
Standard revolver courses of fire may have little relationship to an
individual gunfight. The
scores achieved do not necessarily reflect the officer's ability to perform in
an armed confrontation. (See
appendix for close combat course.)
review of the records indicates that from September 1854 to December 1979, 318
members of the Department were killed in the line of duty. Of this number, 64
met their deaths in fires, vehicle accidents, drownings, etc. The remaining 254
died from wounds received while involved in an armed encounter.
In these encounters, the distance between the officer and the person
inflicting the fatal wound(s) was:
to 3 feet
feet to 6 feet
feet to 15 feet
feet to 25 feet
125 feet (sniper)
distances Involved where the officers survived the encounter have, as with those
which were fatal , remained almost the same during the SOP years (1970-1979) and
a random sampling of cases going back as far as 1929.
In these cases, 4,000, the distances were:
feet to 20 feet
feet to 45 feet
feet to 75 feet
was also noted that as the distance between the officer and the assailant
increased, so did the officer's chance for survival. The obvious conclusion is
that the most dangerous situation is one in which the officer is in close
proximity to the potential assailant, such as interrupting a crime in progress~
restraining, talking, frisking or taking someone into custody.
TYPES OF WEAPONS
to 1974, an officer's revolver qualification was limited to firing ~n approved
score with the standard service revolver.
A review at that time revealed, through the SOP 9 (s.
69) reports, that the service revolver was used in only 60% of the cases.
The authorized smaller framed civilian clothes revolver was used in 35%.
In the remaining 5%, an undercover type pistol or shotgun was employed.
Percentages have remained consistent over the past ten years.
view of the statistics, and because many officers had experienced difficulty in
their proficiency with the off-duty weapons, qualification with them became
mandatory in 1974. Officers authorized to carry other types of guns because of
their assignments (undercover,
confidential investigators, etc.) were also required to qualify with that
training and qualification has increased safety when handling and carrying these
non-service guns. In
addition, it has brought home to the officer the limits, capabilities
and reliability of the non-service weapon he is authorized to carry.
consideration of the police service revolver is complete without concern for the
device in which it is carried. The
SOP 9 reports indicate three essential features to be important. They are
safety, security and availability. A fourth, concealability, is only significant
in off-duty or undercover use. Emphasis on any of these features will mean a de-emphasis
of another, thus removing
all of the cases reviewed, an unauthorized or gimmick holster (ankle, shoulder, skeleton,
fast draw, clip-on
etc.) was involved when the revolve was lost, accidentally discharged.
or the officer was disarmed. The
cases reviewed emphasize strongly that there
is no acceptable substitute for safety and security while carrying a revolver,
it reasonably available for fast withdrawal. The holster must be firmly
cover the trigger and have a dependable security device.
increase security, it is attached to a belt worn snugly about the waist on the
strong hand side and fitted in such a way that the grip is close to the body at
elements mentioned above dictate the use of standard stocks and grips.
Nospecially fitted target-type or colored grips, are allowed.
programs have been based to a large extent on the assumption that when
an officer is attacked with a deadly or dangerous weapon, it will
be a firearm. Reports
(SOP 9 5. 69) reveal that
there has been an increase in the use of firearms by
assailants since 1970. However,
they account for only 60% of the attacks on police.
The remaining 40% are a varied lot which includes hand grenades, hatchets, knives,
bayonets, meat cleavers, tire irons, baseball bats, etc.
of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the 254 officers killed in the line
of duty show that firearms were used in 230 (90%) of the cases and knives in 11 (5%).
In the remaining 13 cases, seven officers were beaten, four were bombed,
were thrown to their deaths.
facts indicate that training programs must include the defensive use of police weapons
In situations where an officer is confronted with a weapon other than a firearm.
In these situations, an officer is trained to keep as much distance
and his assailant as possible until the
weapon Is discarded. He must
himself to get into a position where his maneuverability Is Impaired. This Is
by using an obstruction, such as a chair, table or counter to prevent a lunging
obstruction which must be jumped or run around is the best defense.
Reports indicate that
In some cases psychopaths, addicts and intoxicated opponentsay continue to
attack even after being fatally struck by gunfire.
TECHNIQUES AND TACTICS
the revolver is involved with both technique and tactics.
Rapid drawing and firing
of the revolver was emphasized in past training programs. but has been discarded.
Instead, emphasis is placed on when to draw. SOP 9 reports show that 65%
of the officers who had prior knowledge of impending danger had their revolvers
drawn and ready. This is proper, tactically, for a number of reasons:
1. Holsters which are
designed with the proper element of security in mind do not lend themselves to
2. Safety of the
officer is enhanced when he anticipates an armed confrontation or is covering
people who are, or may be, armed.
3. The possibility of
an escalation of force and/or violent response is reduced.
The incidence of accidental discharges is reduced. It has been noted repeatedly
that officers resort to the techniques they were taught in stress situations.
Quick draw and fire exercises have been replaced by those which teach safe and
rapid removal of the revolver. Equally
Important is the philosophy of having the revolver drawn and ready when
appropriate. SOP 9 proves the
old bromide, "Don1t draw your gun and point it at anyone unless
you intend to shoot" to be a tactical blunder.
Hand or Weak Hand
with both the strong and weak hand is a standard part of firearms training. However,
the review showed that officers, with an occasional exception, fired with the strong
hand. This was the case even when it appeared advantageous to use the weak hand.
strong hand was used because the officer was in close contact with his
adversary, because he already had it in the strong hand at the time, or because
he drew it as the incident escalated. Another reason surfaced. Many officers
indicated more confidence In their ability to perform better with the strong
hand. These officers were not
willing to trade this proficiency for a less exposed position (shooting from
behind a barricade or covered position).
As a result, the value of placing heavy emphasis on weak hand shooting
during training and qualification Is subject to question.
positions taught during firearms training have remained fairly constant over the
years. In 84% of the cases reviewed. the officer was in a standing or crouch
position (supported and unsupported) when he fired.
Rarely were the prone, sitting or standard PPC barricade positions used
during firearms confrontations. The training program, therefore, is primarily
concerned with the positions actually employed, including squatting, kneeling,
leaning, etc.). See Section
II, “Environmental Factors."
sight alignment is fundamental to target shooting. Yet, 70% of the cases
reviewed indicated that no sight alignment was employed when the revolver was
fired. These officers
reported that they used the instinctive or point shooting method of firing.
This technique was used for a variety of reasons: the close proximity of
their adversary, rapid escalation of the incident, poor lighting or the need for
the swiftest possible reaction.
the distance between the officer and his opponent increased, some type of aiming
was reported in 20% of the cases. This aiming or sighting ran from using the
barrel as an aiming reference to picking up the front sight and utilizing fine
sight alignment. The remaining 10%
could not remember whether they had aimed or pointed and fired the weapon
observations revealed the importance of training officers point shooting with
emphasis on good form and trigger manipulation to increase hit potential when
sights are not used.
and Double Action
continuing review of cases confirmed the observation made from earlier studies
that the vast majority of officers employed the double action technique.
This method was used in 90% of the situations and used almost without
exceptions in close range, surprise or immediate danger incidents.
These confrontations invariably bring an instinctive response from the
officer in somewhat the same degree, and for the same reasons, disclosed in the
analysis of use of sight alignment.
of the single action shooting was done when there was no immediate threat. It
was used to destroy injured or threatening animals, in barricaded criminal
situations, from behind protective cover, for warning shots and in unintentional
use, despite training in both techniques, indicates that the double action
technique Is the one which comes most naturally in many situations.
For that reason, it Is being emphasized as the primary technique.
action shooting has not been abandoned. It Is taught as the alternative method.
may increase the ability of some officers to strike a target more accurately due
to the lighter trigger pull. However,
the trade-off in safety and the reported preponderance of unintentional
discharges in the single action mode have relegated It to secondary status.
The SOP 9 study reveals
that the average number of shots fired by individual officers in an armed
confrontation is between two and three rounds, less than half the capacity of
the service revolver. The two
to three rounds per incident has remained constant over the years covered by the
report. It also substantiates an earlier study by the L.A.P.D. (1967)
which found that 2.6 rounds per encounter were discharged.
The necessity for rapid reloading to
prevent death or serious injury was not a factor In any of the cases examined.
In close range encounters, under 15 feet, it was never reported as necessary
to continue the action. However,
in 6% of the total cases the officer reported reloading.
These involved cases of pursuit, barricaded persons and other incidents
where the action was prolonged and the distance exceeded the 25 foot death
It is evident in some cases
that lack of firepower, not having a larger capacity weapon and/or ability to
reload rapidly, may have changed the outcome.
In no case was it the prime factor in bringing the contact to a
Despite the apparent low
incidence of need, this training has not been discontinued. The manipulatory skill, over all familiarity with the
revolver gained, and its value in some situations make it a useful part of
training exercises. It is not
emphasized to the degree it has been in the past at the expense of accurate
delivery of the fired rounds. Every
report indicates that it is accurate hits that count rather than the number.
The Department's firearms
policy, adopted in August of 1972, prohibits the firing of warning shots.
Since the order was published, discharges that were classified as
warning shots have been reduced by 93% (183 in 1970 to 14 in 1978).
The rationale for this prohibition was twofold:
Warning shots were most
often fired in an effort to stop a fleeing felon rather than as a means for
reducing the escalation of force.
additional hazard of firing warning shots to officers In civilian clothes was
not realized until this review. Chain reaction firing on the part of uniformed
police who were responding was sometimes set off by the warning shot
Although the policy is still
in effect, there have been occasions when such shots were deemed prudent and
tactically correct. The prohibition has been continued for the reasons stated
but each case is examined on its own merits to determine whether it was prudent.
Firing at or from a
Interim Order 118 s.
1973 prohibits discharging a firearm at, or from, a moving vehicle unless
the occupants of the other vehicle are using deadly physical force by means
other than the vehicle itself. While
firing at a moving vehicle is permitted under the circumstances stated, the
.38 Special cartridge used by the N.Y.P.D. will not penetrate an
automobile body readily. Ricochets from the body, or even the glass, have proved
as dangerous and deadly as the bullet in its initial flight.
Hitting a moving target is
difficult. This difficulty Is
increased many times over when both the shooter and the target~ even an
automobile, are in motion. Not
only must the officer be justified in firing at the operator or occupants of a
vehicle, he must also assume the responsibility for damage or injury which might
result from causing the vehicle to go out of control.
fire from hand-held weapons from a fast-moving vehicle is almost impossible,
even by a highly trained officer. This practice is discouraged regardless of the
skill of the officers involved, especially in congested locations.
The use of backup personnel by
police has been a standard patrol safety technique for years. SOP 9 indicates
certain precautions should be taken in order to reduce the incidence of
problems of mistaken identity. It
also points out the need to keep the number of officers directly involved to the
minimum required in order to reduce the dangers to those involved and to the
The purpose of this part of
the analysis, however has to
do with the use of backup personnel by criminals.
Review of the reports
reveals an increasing use of this tactic in criminal activities. This is particularly true in armed robbery but not
confined to this type of crime. The
obvious purpose is to attempt to facilitate the escape of those actively engaged
in the crime in case of interruption.
The backup person(s) assume the role of an innocent bystander and blend
with others present while locating himself in the best strategic location
Some examples of how this
has been done follow:
In the case of a bank robbery, a backup person may be standing in another
line or preparing a deposit slip at a desk.
In a truck hijack, the backup may be waiting, with others, at a bus stop,
simulating a delivery from a rented truck or fixing a flat tire nearby.
One or more persons may seat themselves In a booth or at the end of a bar
prior to a robbery
These and other
tactics have been responsible for the inclusion of some of the role-playing
exercises, mentioned earlier, in the training program.
Officers are reminded constantly that they must be aware of the
possibility of encountering accomplices when responding to crimes in progress or
staking out a dangerous location. Awareness
of this possibility, use of any available cover and alertness to the entire
scene have been found the means for countering this tactic.
Few controversies in law
enforcement have stimulated as much conversation as bullet potential, the makeup
of the cartridge used in police service revolvers.
Prior to the initiation of SOP 9, the emotions, opinions, paper
ballistics, personal preferences and "war stories" made it impossible
to differentiate between fact and fiction.
The result, with facts gleaned from the reports, has been the preparation
of a separate instructor guide, "The Police Revolver and Bullet
This analysis has attempted
to sort out the facts available from the autopsy table, reports of
ballisticians, pathologists, medical examiners and emergency room surgeons.
During the period 1970 through 1979, 46 officers have been killed and 256
wounded by gunfire in police confrontations.
In response, the police have inflicted 10 casualties for every one
suffered at the hands of their assailants.
In all the cases investigated,
one factor stood out as a proper measure of bullet efficiency. That factor was
bullet placement. The investigation into this matter was not confined to the
Department8s standard velocity, 158-grain, semi-wadcutter bullet.
It included cases in which the reported caliber ranged from the .44
magnum to the .22 long rifle, and practically every caliber in between.
It was not the size, shape,
configuration, composition, caliber or velocity of the bullet which performed
the task. It was the placement that caused death, or injury serious enough to
bring a confrontation to an end. This
conclusion has resulted from analysis of the reports and with full knowledge of
other reports, studies, articles and experiments which have been published
Hit Potential In Gun
An attempt was made to relate
an officer's ability to strike a target in a combat situation to his range
qualification scores ended with no clear connection. After making over
200 such comparisons,
no firm conclusion was reached.
The police officer's
potential for hitting his adversary during armed confrontation has
over the years and stands at slightly over 25% of the rounds fired. An
assailant's skill was 11% in 1979. 0bservations made on this subject are
impossible to document and must be considered as opinions. There are many
variables in armed confrontations which cannot be measured because they cannot
be recreated, such as the reaction to stress (a major factor).
It was noted, however, that the potential of striking a target in a
gunfight has improved since incorporation of training exercises in close combat,
moving targets at close range, dim light and multiple target firing.
It also appears that the
inclusion of judgment situations and tactical exercises has aided in the
reduction of death and injuries. This observation is based on the results and is tempered by
the fact that the police enter almost every situation at a disadvantage
It can only be
concluded that a police officer's chance of survival is greatly enhanced by
participation in a regularly scheduled, realistic training program.
Body Alarm and Exertion
Many police officers find
firing a revolver accurately difficult, even in the academic
environment of a
controlled pistol range. In a police action rapid heart beat, muscle tremors and
Irregular breathing, brought on by emotional tension and/or physical exertion,
add to the inherent difficulty. When these physiological and psychological factors are
coupled with poor lighting, irregular terrain, obstructed view and Irregular
movement of the target, it is easy to understand why shooting accurately is
In order to
prepare officers for the difficulties which will be experienced in stress
situations, an exertion course, simulating these conditions is given to all
recruit classes near the completion of firearms training. The purposes of this
course are to show through actual experience: 1) the effects of physical stress
on marksmanship and 2) the futility of firing the revolver while running. The
course is designed to increase the heart and respiratory rates by running and to
induce unsteadiness of the hands similar to that encountered in most armed
experiencing the decline in proficiency seems the most positive way to convince
each officer that his accuracy will be reduced under physical and mental stress.
This awareness on his part makes it easier to get him to accept the measures
necessary to compensate for the loss.
to the fundamentals, and aggressive practice of them, are the only compensating
elements available to him. Good form in assuming the positions, including use of
support and cover, good grip and trigger manipulation will increase retaliatory
efficiency in combat situations. This applies, however, only to stationary
shooting. When an officer continues to run and fire while running, his ability
to strike an intended target is decreased dramatically and decreases
progressively as the distance between himself and his target increases. Firing
while running changes the situation from one where skill has a bearing into one
in which the outcome depends on pure chance. This alteration in the odds
endangers the officer unnecessarily by depleting his ammunition supply. It
increases many times over the possibility of death or injury to innocent persons
who may be present.
The number of
unintentional discharges averaged about 40 over the period studied (1970-1978).
This number is relatively small in light of the size of the force (28,000), that
all officers are required to be armed at all times when they are in the city,
and that 4.000 non-police firearms are handled and processed each year. Despite
the low number, unintentional discharges are of grave concern to training
officers. Not only do they endanger the lives of officers and other innocent
persons, but they create publicity which reflects on the professional reputation
of the whole department.
The major situations
in which unintentional discharges occurred follows:
Use of a non-service
Running, tripping or
falling during pursuit
Handling an unfamiliar
Cleaning a firearm
discharges of semi-automatic pistols occurred more often than with revolvers
when compared to the number carried or processed. These discharges occurred
despite the fact that officers who were authorized to carry semi-automatic
pistols in lieu of the standard service revolver were trained and qualified in
It was concluded
from the review that the training program can reduced the incidence of
unintentional discharge by:
Incorporating a segment on the safe handling of non-service types of
Requiring mandatory qualifications for officers whose units are equipped
with shotguns, rifles, semi-automatic and automatic weapons and tear gas
launching devices. NOTE: Both of the above must emphasize a knowledge of the
functioning of the weapon and firing cycle – a “how they work” approach.
While they may appear simple on the surface, it is a complicated matter for the
occasional user and the officer who has little interest in firearms except for
his service revolver.
Including care and cleaning instruction in the post academy training
cycle with emphasis on basic safety considerations involved in cleaning a
Emphasizing the dangers of gimmick, unorthodox, worn, unserviceable and
Lack of or
An earlier analysis of
SOP9, made in 1974, documented the circumstances of police firing on each other
due to mistaken identity. Five of these incidents resulted in officers being
killed. All of those officers killed were in civilian clothes, had weapons
exposed and made what could be interpreted as threatening gestures towards the
officers who had challenged them. (this included firing warning shots). In
similar confrontations, uniformed officers, because they were readily
identifiable, did not become “victims.” This was certainly not the case when
officers were not in uniform. The problem is aggravated when two or more
non-uniformed officers respond to the same incident. Police officers frequently
have been mistaken for criminals, by citizens and fellow officers alike. This is
not unusual since 40% of serious police confrontations with criminals involve
non-uniformed personnel. Half of these incidents involve shabbily-dressed street
crime, anti-crime and undercover unit personnel.
As a result of
this analysis, mistaken identification confrontations became a priority and
immediate steps were taken to identify the causes and correct the condition. The
reports and interviews with officers involved revealed three elements:
Preconceived notions that place a suspect in a “bad guy” category,
influenced by many factors: Mode of dress; grooming, type of weapon observed;
location of the incident; race; shots fired prior to contact; others. It should
be noted that officers reach these unwarranted conclusions regardless of their
own race or the mode of dress or grooming at the time.
Officers in civilian clothes fail to realize that they are not readily
identifiable by other officers. When preoccupied by a violent encounter this
tendency is heightened. Non-uniformed officers must be made aware that the
burden of identification lies with them and that they must not do anything which
could be construed as a threat. If challenged, they should maintain their
position, not move suddenly, and reply in a loud, clear voice, “I’m a police
officer,” “I’m on the job” or some other reply which will establish his
identity without question. He should obey the instructions of the challenging
officer without hesitation.
The challenge and reply should be simple, clear and understood beforehand
by both parties. “Police, don’t move,” is easily understood. Terms such as
“freeze,” “drop it,” and others of that type seem to work in the
pre-arranged situations on television but such language had led to serious
confrontations in the real world of the street.
In challenge or
reply jargon, slurs or flip remarks are not acceptable. The challenge and reply
are crucial in a tense situation and require professional, understandable
language to minimize the danger of mistaken identity.
standard “Police, don’t move” challenge was incorporated in the training
program in 1975, and notice of this challenge pasted on every locker in the
Department, there has not been one deadly confrontation between officers. This,
along with the prohibition of “funny guns” such as pearl handled,
nickel-plated and other show types, and the use wherever possible of a
recognized jacket and baseball-type cap marked “Police,” has all but
eliminated the identification problem.