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Following Standard Procedure: A Long-term Analysis of Gunfights and Their Effects on Policy and Training

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2003 Pages: 78-87
Thomas Aveni
Date Published
August 2003
10 pages
This review of police gunfight-related research identifies factors that tend to influence the accuracy of police firearms use; implications are drawn for firearms training.
Research has found that shootings which involve single officers have hit ratios that approach, if not exceed, 50 percent. "Bunch-shootings" (more than one officer firing) increase the number of rounds fired per officer by at least 45 percent but reduce per-officer hit ratios by as much as 82 percent. "Mistake-of-fact" shootings represent 18-33 percent of police shootings, a troublesome finding. Low-light shootings account for at least 60 percent of police use of deadly force; they diminish police hit ratios by as much as 30 percent. Low-light conditions also account for as many as 75 percent of all mistake-of-fact shootings. Given the high percentage of mistake-of-fact shootings, it is important that training in handgun use be part of an all-encompassing conflict-resolution methodology. Scenario-based training is essential, and it should seldom culminate in gunfire. The recent trend toward the production of quality, low-cost, video-based firearms training simulators is encouraging; however, their use must accurately reflect the imminent-threat cues that officers have identified in their report writing and in subsequent courtroom testimony. Because of the problems associated with low-light encounters, notably related mistake-of-fact and inaccurate shootings, police must be trained to use their flashlights before they use their firearms. Also, laser-equipped service pistols may help address the 20-30-percent decline in hit ratios under low-light conditions.