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Reality Disconnect in Firearms Training - Frontline Debriefs (permalink)

Recently, on a working vacation with the family, we watched a movie wherein the hero traveled to the center of the earth in order to save it. Now being the curious sort, I figured out the degree of plausibility of such an endeavor. Here it is:

The earth’s core is estimated to run at a balmy 10,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Titanium melts at 3,034 degrees Fahrenheit. The pressure at the core is estimated to run in the neighborhood of around 3.6 million atmospheres. Since the core is solid nickel/iron, this equates to about 13,000 kilograms of pressure per cubic meter. In short, any crew in any vessel in this situation would be squashed and toasted beyond all recognition. Hollywood screenwriting magic, folks!

What is not Hollywood magic is the subject of deadly force. A bad or out-of-policy shooting or below-boards shooting is pretty much instantaneous news in this day and age. I know this because news stations have interviewed me within 30 minutes of such incidents, even as the crime scene tape was going up at the incident location.

Cell-phone cameras, body cameras, and aspiring “wanna-be” news reporters are all the rage. There’s a fairly good chance your actions are being digitally captured.

I was recently approached by a student who works for an agency. He inquired what my thoughts are on the philosophy of “reactive/reflex–shooting,” wherein five to six shots are automatically discharged each time a weapon is deployed.

Oh boy! Where do I begin?

You are responsible for each and every round discharged. Not just the overall, “I kinda sprayed here and there because it seemed the right thing to do,” but rather the following.

Each, and I mean each and every round, must be accounted for. The detail, by the way, in which each and every round is accounted for is eye-wateringly precise, detailed, exact, and parsed into seconds and portions thereof.

Sit through a deposition or trial and you will observe the melting process of a defendant when no plausible answers are forthcoming and no reasonable thought sequence is in evidence. It is beyond brutal. Said defendant will have also most probably lost the case right out of the gate.

Here’s the hypothetical:

A suspect presents a deadly force threat. Five to six shots are discharged faster than the mind can process the evolution. Multiple cameras illustrate that within the first two shots, the deadly force threat was clearly not in evidence, the suspect was clearly no longer a threat, and the remaining rounds fired by our erstwhile officer were in fact the rounds that directly resulted in his or her demise. (A case similar to this was widely broadcast in a major city, with multiple rounds discharged into a “proned-out” suspect well after the threat had ceased.)

Philosophy is nice. Speculation is amusing. Conjecture is always entertaining. In most endeavors—those not affecting life-or-death decisions—one can employ any of these processes on any given subject matter over cold beer or within the confines of air-conditioned cubicles while blazing away on red-hot keyboards.

Since I work within the courts on a fairly consistent basis, I can assure you that all this goes out the window when the first Federal Civil Rights lawsuit hits you square in the face like a North Shore 40-foot Waimea breaker. Wipeout!

I have arrived at that point in life when I simply view the reality disconnect of certain techniques that are presented to me from time to time with a degree of amusement.

First, who is espousing such a technique? What is their verifiable background? What is their verifiable Curriculum Vitae? What is their background within the judicial process? How many times has this technique been employed in a verifiable fashion in the field? How many depositions, trials, interrogatories, and Federal Rule 26 cases have they participated in?

When queries such as these are answered again and again in an obscure and nebulous fashion, one after another, I walk away.

It is patently unfair and quite honestly disingenuous when one advocates a philosophy in which others place their lives, futures and careers and which they have to answer for in each and every action but it is not the one espousing such flawed techniques and philosophies who is held accountable.

Spin and marketing and smoke and mirrors are fine if you’re dealing with golf, badminton, or cupcake baking. Most of these are not going to be life altering (with the exception of a really, really bad cupcake).

The individual referenced above asked me why they are instructed in this manner and what is the rationale behind it. I don’t have a clue and I don’t have a cogent or lucid answer for him other than that whoever is instructing should read this article.

I have adopted a “you can pay me now or you can pay me later” ethos. The latter is far more costly in funding, reputation, and notoriety. A clear thought process backed by solid fundamentals always wins out over the mud flap and whip antenna, flux capacitor “wanna-bes.”

Training should never disconnect from reality.

Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at www.internationaltactical.com. Looking Back, a free monthly newsletter, is available by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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