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September 30, 2003
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Accidental Discharge; Analysis of Training Points

Below is a link to an MPEG video clip that was submitted by a Detective at the Woodstock, IL PD. He recommended it be sent around the country and shown at all shift briefings. We agree. Please note that we believe that we may have seen the video before, but are sending this report because the training points and concept studies remain valid and well illustrated.

http://www.policeone.com/video/incident.mpeg

If you are having problems viewing this video, download windows media player

As you watch the video, think about the following:

The first tactical reminder illustrated here is that unless you're ready to fire, keep your finger at the trigger guard until a rising threat suggests it's time to drop it into firing position on the trigger. In the interest of training, although outward appearances don't immediately suggest an imminent attack threat, let's proceed under the assumption that the cover officer did in fact feel that the threat warranted a ready-to-fire finger position.

1. You'll notice that the cover officer's weapon starts to droop just before the round is fired (watch the left of the screen closely). She's starting to relax, likely startles a little bit when she subconsciously starts to feel the gun moving off target and ends up executing an over correction that includes a trigger pull. The result? She nearly executes the perp and possibly her partner. This stands as a good reminder to remain aware of your mental state and the state of the threat and adjust yourself accordingly. If you shift from a state of high alert (justifying a finger on the trigger) in response to an imminent threat back down to a reduced state of alarm, remember to remain cognizant of finger positioning. If your finger is on the trigger and you begin to relax, you've seen what can happen.

2. Also note that this stands as a possible illustration of Sympathetic Muscle Response (the trigger finger reacting just as the non-trigger finger does). As an officer, this is a major thing of which you need to be aware. When the gun starts to fade, it appears that her support hand grips tighter, including her fingers. In an illustration of Sympathetic Muscle Response, the trigger finger inadvertently tightens simultaneously, resulting in the firing of a round. If you find yourself having to reach out and grab a subject while your finger is on the trigger, you MUST remain alert to both the position of the weapon and the actions of your trigger finger. Stress + physical movement can very easily result in an accidental discharge.

3. You will also notice that officer's tactical positioning could have been better. The cover officer is positioned directly in front of her contact officer partner. Just a few inches separate that cover officer from having his partner's gun point directly at HIS center mass. She might have been better served to try and angle herself a bit more, particularly given the fact that had she stood in line with the visual angle we see from the camera, her partner would have been shielded by the red Corvette while the perp would still be clearly in the line of fire. Along these lines, given the misfire here, imagine what might have happened if the perp struggled upward and the adrenaline-filled officer fired. Her line of fire could very easily have swayed up to her partner.

4. One last point: Tactical kudos to the contact officer in this incident. If you watch the clip in slow-motion you'll see that the perp, not surprisingly, covers after the round is fired then starts to get up. The contact officer, also startled, gets off the perp's back and jumps up and back after the shot. He very quickly restores composure and nearly immediately regains his position of tactical superiority over the perp. This is well done and a key illustration of reflexive tactical thinking under surprise conditions and stress.

Source: PoliceOne; Member Submission

Discuss this video in the Police's Secure Law Enforcement Only Training forum:

- Who is liable is this situation? The officer? The Department?
- Is this negligence?
- Are we missing anything in our analysis?

PoliceOne Training Forum






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