The Associated Press
Related: LAPD instructor shoots colleague during training exercise
MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — Several police officers in northeast Ohio were injured during a training exercise when an officer fired a shotgun he thought was loaded with blanks.
But the gun was accidentally loaded with birdshot.
And when a Shaker Heights police officer fired it, 3 of his fellow officers got a taste of it.
Luckily, the officer had aimed at the floor — a training requirement.
But the birdshot ricocheted upward, hitting the officers in their lower legs and abdomens.
Deputy Chief Scott Lee says the accidents took place in nearby Maple Heights — but only Shaker Heights police officers were affected.
He said all three officers were treated at a hospital and were back at work the next day.
P1 Editor's Note
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After two similar firearms training accidents have occured just days apart, reality training expert and P1 columnist Ken Murray points out that on average, two officers are killed in incidents like this every year. He ventures to guess that, for every two deaths, "there are 100 who get shot at and 1,000 more who discover, last-minute, that things could have gone terribly wrong.""It's epidemic," Murray says of these preventable accidents. "Officers get lax and think reality-based training is simple. A cultural shift needs to take place in how we think about it. People need to behave in a certain way and rules need to be in place."
Three critical considerations for reality based training:
1) There needs to be a single, well-trained safety officer in charge of passing out these weapons, (i.e., It's not "Go grab a gun," it's "Go to the safety officer, he'll issue your gun.") The tendency to think, "we're all professionals here" can get you in trouble." Very experienced people just reach in and grab without paying attention. This is how inert guns get mixed with live ones -- too many hands in the cookie jar, too many distractions.
2) People in charge of training must have formal education in the realm of reality-based training and understand not only the technology, but also the philosophy. The program must have a dedicated set of parameters and must follow the specific guidelines of simulation training (e.g. IALEFI’s Standards & Practices Guide)
3) There must be buy-in at the top levels for this program to be effective. In other words, don't give training the budgetary short-shrift.
The most tragic incidents have been the result of hot weapons inadvertently being confused with other types of weapons. Education and effective safety protocols are essential to avoiding this type of confusion. Improvisation and creativity are double edged swords. They are essential for devising interesting and effective training programs, but when improperly applied by those who do not have the experience necessary to ensure a safe training environment, they have and will continue to prove deadly.