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Witnessing an Accidental Shooting at the Police Training Academy: Professional and Psychological Outcomes

NCJ Number
Women & Criminal Justice Volume: 15 Issue: 3/4 Dated: 2004 Pages: 59-79
Kimberly A. Lonsway; Susan Welch
Date Published
21 pages
This study examined the psychological and professional impact on police recruits who witnessed or were part of the class in which one recruit (a Black woman) accidently shot another recruit in the weapons cleaning area of an Illinois police training academy.
A questionnaire was initially administered to members of the class that was directly associated with the shooting incident, a class that was simultaneously enrolled in the academy but was not directly related to the incident, and two comparison classes surveyed several months following the incident. Approximately 1 year after the shooting, the first two classes were again surveyed to provide data on the longitudinal impact of the incident. Questionnaires were also sent to the field training officers (FTOs) at the same time as the 1-year follow-up. A total of 199 police recruits were involved in the study. In addition to demographic and background information on the recruits, information was obtained on their satisfaction with training, classmates, and instructors; their evaluation of academy training units; work behaviors and attitudes; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); police cynicism; attitudes toward female officers; attitudes toward affirmative action; and academy procedures. The findings suggest that the immediate effect of witnessing the accident was modest; however, recruits who had negative experiences in the aftermath of the shooting referred to the impact of the accidental shooting. Recruits most directly affected by the incident were less satisfied with their classmates and viewed their firearms training as less effective compared with peers from other academy classes. The negative assessment of firearms training remained 1 year after graduation. Recruits in the affected class showed more prejudicial attitudes toward women in law enforcement, perhaps because the shooter was a woman. There was no evidence, however, of prejudicial attitudes toward minority officers even though the shooter was an African-American. 2 tables, 9 notes, and 43 references