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Only the police can be trusted with guns

Discussion in 'Legal' started by 444, Aug 17, 2006.

  1. 444

    444 New Member

    I hope this isn't a duplicate thread. I looked briefly and didn't see anything. This is from today's (August 17) Los Angeles Times, California Section, Los Angeles Edition.


    Accidental Gunshots Vex LAPD
    In 350 incidents since 1985, officers shot selves or one another nearly as often as they were hit by suspects, records show.
    By Scott Glover and Matt Lait, Times Staff Writers
    August 17, 2006

    The iconic confrontation in American policing, in which brave officers shoot it out with armed thugs, has occurred time and again in the annals of the Los Angeles Police Department.

    Only days ago, what seemed like a routine traffic stop turned into a gun battle when officers pulled over a car only to see a passenger emerge with an AK-47 assault rifle. The gunman sprayed the squad car with about 20 high-velocity rounds, one of which nearly severed an officer's wrist.

    As unsettling — and unpredictable — as such incidents are, a Times analysis of two decades of police records highlights another danger to officers, one little appreciated even by officials who oversee the department: Officers over those years shot themselves or one another nearly as often as they were shot by suspects.

    Since 1985, there have been more than 350 accidental discharges by LAPD officers. There also have been more than a dozen so-called friendly fire incidents.

    Though the resulting wounds tended to be less serious than in gun battles with suspects, scores of officers and more than two dozen suspects and bystanders have been injured in incidents that department officials blame on careless handling of firearms.

    "Any officer being shot for any reason is an unacceptable number," said Police Commission Vice President Alan Skobin, who is one of two commissioners assigned to review accidental discharges of guns. "Unfortunately, when you have a large number of people who frequently handle weapons, there will be accidents. You just hope that there aren't serious consequences."

    Last month offered up a sad example: The 3-year-old son of an LAPD officer got hold of his father's 9-millimeter service handgun as they sat in a pickup truck at a traffic light in Anaheim. When the child pulled the trigger, a bullet passed through the officer and left him paralyzed from the waist down.

    Officials say that kind of tragedy is rare, but department records don't track accidental shootings not committed by an officer.

    The vast majority of accidental shootings the department does monitor are avoidable and generally the result of careless or reckless conduct.

    Over the last five years, the number of accidents has declined — as have all types of officer-involved shootings — but such incidents still accounted for about a third of all gunshot injuries sustained by officers.

    Some officers have been involved in more than one accidental shooting. However, because the Police Commission this year started withholding the names of officers involved in shootings, it is no longer possible to determine from its public reports whether an officer has a history of negligently handling firearms.

    Mishaps commonly occur as officers chase suspects or clean their guns. However, over the years, some accidental gunshots have been highly unusual.

    One off-duty officer shot himself in a leg as he sat behind his desk and, according to department records, contemplated "a complex mathematical problem." Another officer inadvertently pulled the trigger when his African gray parrot flew into his face.

    One officer accidentally shot his girlfriend in a leg while trying to retrieve a cartridge from his handgun as a "memento" of their date. Yet another officer admitted that he accidentally fired his gun because he was startled by a woman holding a teddy bear. Two officers accidentally discharged their weapons as they handled them at home while watching themselves in mirrors.

    Even officers from the department's elite SWAT unit have accidentally fired guns while on duty.

    In one case, officers had just completed a highly dangerous operation in which they entered the home of a barricaded suspect. Though they emerged from the house unscathed, one of them errantly fired his shotgun while unloading ammunition from another weapon. Shotgun pellets struck the ground between his feet, with metal fragments ricocheting into his partner's upper leg.

    In another case, an officer from the division that studies police behavior and attempts to reduce risk was off duty when he decided to give his fiancee a lesson on the safe handling of guns, according to a department report.

    The officer thought he had removed all of the rounds from the cylinder of his .38-caliber weapon when he pointed it at a wall and began to explain "trigger pull pressure." As he pulled the trigger, a round that had been left in the chamber discharged into the wall.

    Accidental shootings are not unique to LAPD officers. Statistics from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department show that deputies over the last five years accidentally discharged their weapons at roughly the same rate.

    "I don't see it as a problem any more significant than other agencies might have, and maybe, in fact, less significant," LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said.

    Police Department records show that 161 officers were injured by gunfire from 1985 to 2005, the last year for which statistics are available.

    Ninety officers were shot by suspects, compared to 68 officers who either shot themselves or were shot by other officers. (In three cases it was unknown whether the officer was wounded by a suspect's gun or by friendly fire.)

    At the LAPD, accidental gunshots can mean administrative headaches and embarrassment for those involved. Officers are required to report immediately any discharge of a weapon whether it is intentional or not, on duty or off.

    All gun discharges are investigated by detectives and then reviewed by the chief and the civilian Police Commission, which makes the final determination on whether a shooting is within departmental guidelines.

    Nearly every accidental gunshot results in an "out of policy" finding by the commission and can result in an officer being disciplined. Often, however, they receive minor punishments such as reprimands.

    Because of administrative repercussions, police experts suspect that many accidental shootings go unreported, especially if they occur while the officer is off duty, which according to LAPD records is when more than 20% of the accidents happen.

    Former LAPD training Officer Hank Cousine admitted that he did not report an accidental discharge by a probationary officer under his supervision because he didn't want to hurt the young officer's career.

    Cousine, a 15-year veteran who was fired for participating in an illegal pyramid scheme in 1998, said he believes that many accidental discharges go unnoticed by the department.

    "If there's no one around, you're not going to say anything about it," Cousine said. "Why would you lay yourself out? Why would you want to give up money, get yourself in trouble, and take days off and get ridiculed? Why would you do that?"

    Over the years, alcohol appeared to play a role in some accidental discharges.

    Officer Timothy J. McLaughlin accidentally fired a .38-caliber bullet through his apartment wall and into a neighbor's home after drinking six beers in 1999. He reported the discharge a day later, only after learning that the neighbor took a photo of the bullet hole and talked to his landlord about hiring an attorney.

    "A firearm must be handled with extreme care at all times; no one should be more aware of this than a police officer," said Capt. Joseph Curreri, who recommended that McLaughlin be suspended for 15 days. "Only but for the grace of God was no one injured as a result of the accidental discharge."

    While drinking for several hours at a bar in Hermosa Beach in 1998, records show, officers Erik Cortes and Jeffrey Ingalls got to talking about guns and police tactics.

    At one point, they went to the restroom together. As Ingalls washed his hands at a sink, Cortes saw Ingalls' gun and removed it from its holster, accidentally shooting his friend's hand. As the bullet shattered on the bathroom floor, a fragment ricocheted into Ingalls' neck.

    In a 1992 case, Officer John Duran had a blood alcohol level of 0.232 — nearly three times the legal driving limit — when he accidentally fired his gun, setting off a chain reaction of injuries.

    According to police reports, Duran was a passenger in the backseat of a pickup truck when his gun fell out of his waistband. As he picked it up, one of his buddies started play-fighting, slapping the off-duty officer.

    The gun went off and the bullet hit the driver in an arm, causing him to lose control and crash into a telephone pole. The collision broke Duran's neck and fractured a leg of another passenger — also an off-duty LAPD officer — in five places.

    "People make mistakes," Commissioner Skobin said. "They are human beings. You wish it would never happen, but unfortunately it does."


    Times staff writer Doug Smith contributed to this report.
  2. Grey54956

    Grey54956 New Member

    Some LEOs that I know are among the last people I would trust with a loaded weapon.

    That is not to say that there aren't a great many officers out there that truly know their stuff, but rather that there are a few who have next to know idea what they are doing, or that they lack competence in their field.

    But, then again, that's pretty much true of any profession. It's just that in the LEO profession, you get to carry a dangerous weapon much of the time.
  3. chiefs-special-guy

    chiefs-special-guy New Member

    I am sorry to say it, and I am not any sort of firearms expert, but this sort of thing is why I do not take police advice very seriously in most cases. It is either pablum aimed at morons, or else totally self-serving. A police sergeant of my acquintance privately agrees with me. The NO police disarmed innocent civilians unlawfully, then some of them became predators commiting theft and murder. What a travesty.
    "Trust us.. we are from the government"
  4. 444

    444 New Member

    I want to state for the record that this is NOT in any way a police bashing thread. Instead, I am bashing the people who try to tell private citizens that they can't be trusted with a gun and only the police should have guns because they are trained (or whatever).
    As we all know, police officers are just like any other group of people. They are all individuals with different qualities. Some are good, some are bad, some very qualified, some not so much. Some police officers are VERY highly skilled with firearms and others should not be trusted with a firearm. Just like the rest of the US population. The fact that they carry a gun for a living doesn't mean they know what they are doing. It also doesn't mean that the rules of safe firearms handling doesn't apply to them although many of them obviously don't think so.

    I would love to have some accurate data of how many accidental shootings occur among private citizens as a ratio to the number of gun owners in the private sector.
  5. MrZ

    MrZ New Member

    "In 350 incidents since 1985, officers shot selves or one another nearly as often as they were hit by suspects, records show."

    350 fire arm incidents in 21 years.

    I wonder how many automobile incidents occured in the same amount of time.
  6. XD_fan

    XD_fan New Member

    The range I frequent is used by a large number of police organizations for training and practice. I've been swept with a loaded pistol on two occasions by officers wearing body armor with a badge on their belt. There have been two self-inflicted gunshot wound in the last two years at the range. One by a corrections officer (with, humorously enough, a Glock foo-taa) and another by an officer in a local police department. I watched one badge wearer, in succesive draws, first shoot the ceiling and then the floor. Fortunately down range.

    On the other hand I've also seen some very good shooter in there wearing a badge. There is a dectective that comes in and shoots 2" groups at 25 yards with a 1911 all day.

    I don't think LEOs are really any worse or better than the rest of us when it comes to shooting. Their just more visible.
  7. 444

    444 New Member

    The biggest issue for me is that I had no idea of the scope of the problem. Those numbers are staggering.
  8. Snake Eyes

    Snake Eyes New Member


  9. Euclidean

    Euclidean New Member

    Let's be fair though people, the police are supposed to be peace officers and law enforcement officials. Their job is multi faceted. I'm not trying to make excuses for these statistics, it's just that police should be peace officers first and pistoleros second.

    Another part of the problem, which I can empathize with, is we expect so much from them and offer so little compensation and so little valuable training. That's true of my profession and anyone else that serves the public, and one of the biggest travestys affecting the U.S. today.

    I'm normally as hard on the police as anybody, but I don't presume to tell them what kind of training and skills they need to do their jobs effectively because I'm not a law enforcement professional and I have no degrees in criminal justice. Many if not most officers will have a danger filled and illustrious career, yet never fire a shot beyond those aimed at a paper target once a year.

    I don't think anyone should presume to tell me or anyone else how "Good" we need to be in a free country, because in a free society you make decisions and you live with the consequences.
  10. progunner1957

    progunner1957 member

    20 year old kid outshoots two seasoned police officers

    I'll never forget the time I crossed paths with two uniformed police officers one day at the range - I was 20, they were 10 or 12 years older. They were in uniform and were discussing how one of their guns was defective.

    I said I thought the sights just needed adjusting. They asked, "How do you do that?" I dialed in the sights on the "defective" .357 revolver for them. The guy who owned the gun then shot a dinner plate sized goup at 50 feet and said, "HEY! That's ALOT better!"

    I proceeded to empty my Glock 17 into a palm of the hand sized group at the same 50 feet. I'll never forget the look of shock and wonderment on their faces.:D
  11. Frog48

    Frog48 New Member

    I'm sure that there are some LEO's that are good, safe shooters. I also know that alot I wouldnt trust with a firearm. A guy that I know is about my age (early 20's), and is an officer with a college campus police department. He never goes to the range on his own time, except when invited by friends (which are mostly not LEO's, haha). I have no clue how he stays qual'ed, he's a terrible shooter.

    I briefly dated a girl that is a cop in a neighboring town. I was thinking about getting another handgun, and considering a Glock, and asked if I could see hers. I looked it over... it looked as though it had NEVER been cleaned. It was absolutely disgusting. :what:
  12. 444

    444 New Member

    That sounds like my Glocks.
  13. meef

    meef New Member

  14. Mr.V.

    Mr.V. New Member


    I think you may be on to something bigger. Remember...the antis' valhalla is Great Britain where the police only carry billy-clubs to avoid escalation of violence and prevent such situations.
  15. Old Dog

    Old Dog Active Member

    I am of the opinion that an article noting that police officers seem to experience a seemingly significant number of negligent discharges, accidental discharges and other sorts of firearms accidents is not, in fact, newsworthy or otherwise even worthy of note.

    Consider that police officers carry firearms 100% of the time while on duty, and I'd submit at least 90% of police officers,, even in California) carry firearms daily while off-duty ... then look at how many citizens actually carry routinely on a daily basis -- I'm sure less than 1% in California.

    So cops have a lot of "accidents" with firearms. And those who work in construction trades have far more "accidents" with their tools than those of us who use our tools only on weekends in our garages ...

    And the OP didn't expect this to turn into a cop-bashing thread? Hmm:
  16. Valkman

    Valkman Active Member

    I'm still trying to figure this one out - I guess if you substitute "cylinder" for chamber it makes sense. It's hard when neither the gun owner or the writer know anything about guns!
  17. KenW.

    KenW. New Member

    Too few cops, and I know because I are one, refuse to acknowledge that ours is a profession of arms. To many, the gun is just a part of the uniform that is too heavy and bulky. Some of them only remove it from the holster to (try to) qualify once a year. We are supposed to wear our vests on the range... I do for protection from other cops; I've seen thier weapons handling (lack of) skills. When you have an officer spend more time each week working on her nails than she spends handling a weapon each year, it leads me to wonder just where her priorities are placed.:uhoh:

    It's a shame to have that lack of ability since we get to use the County range for free. Practice ammo, much like car per man, mobile computers, cameras, recorders, etc, are "not in the budget". I'm so tired of hearing that. The responsibility falls to the individual.

    There is no reason why an officer can't go out and buy a $7-9 box of ammo and go to a free range for 1/2 an hour each month!
  18. Frog48

    Frog48 New Member

    Its not "bashing" if its true.
  19. Snake Eyes

    Snake Eyes New Member

    Old Dog--

    You don't find it newsworthy, noteworthy or significant that LEOs are shooting themselves and each other almost as often as criminals are shooting them?

    I agree with the idea that LEOs would have a higher rate of NDs than the general population, but that should still be a MUCH smaller number than the number of LEOs shot by perps.
  20. Chipperman

    Chipperman Active Member

    "Unfortunately, when you have a large number of POORLY TRAINED people who frequently handle weapons, there will be accidents."

    There, fixed it.

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