When it comes to dye-marking cartridges or man marking rounds (e.g. Simunitions, Ultimate Training Munitions) and simulated training exercises, most often performed by police, military and private security professionals, it's extremely important to have assigned and marked weapons specifically for those drills or scenarios. Administrators, departments and trainers ought to realize the cost-benefit value of incorporating purchasing or adapting specifically-marked training guns that will only allow dye-marking cartridges and no live ammo. Remember, the worst thing that can go wrong and then have the courage, wisdom and foresight to authorize the budget or implement wise protocol from there.
Moreover, stopping training long-term after an event just hampers preparedness. As it is now with budgets, departments are already behind the curve when it comes to a duty to train, as outlined by case law and actual readiness for all contingencies. Too often we get lucky and live, and thus, erroneously believe we have good tactics or incorporate quality safety measures. In reality, that may well be a false protection, a false sense of security. Too often, like the civilian who pointed his pistol at me "accidently" at the gun range the other day, there are those "experienced" people fortunate enough not to have a negiligent discharge (ND) for "the last 20 years handling guns", but their lack of safety awareness with firearms has merely given way to luck. Hope is not a stragety or a tactic. When doing all the wrong things, it's just a matter of time before bad things happen. Regardless, when it comes to law enforcement training, the onus of officer safety and preparedness still remains on both the individual officer as well as the agency.
Lastly, two things to remember are these:
1) Before pulling the trigger, have positive identification of your target and what's surrounding it. Don't shoot sympathetically just because someone else is shooting. They may be in the wrong.
2) The definition of a safe direction is anywhere that if a round went off, it would not cause major property damage and no human injury.
Alas, I wrote this letter to a local Chief of Police recently. Readers may find it of interest.
I recently received this link and thought it was well worth sharing. Examples of NDs like these should be mentioned before training, during training, at the range, at the academy, prior to shift, and so forth.
I was a cop in Dallas at the time of the Arlington, TX police shooting incident, where a corporal shot another officer in an empty school during a Simunitions training exercise briefing. The officer forgot to go back to Sims FX rounds after lunch. I saw him speaking later on the news, and except for seeing grown men cry while I was in the war zone in Iraq, I've never seen a man weep so profoundly.
Hopefully this link is a helpful reminder to stay safe and remember to reinforce the four fundamental safety rules:
1) Treat all weapons as if loaded.
2) Never point at anything or anyone you're not willing to kill or destroy. (If you think it's unloaded or "safe", or even have the action opened or blocked, refer to rule #1.)
3) Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.
4) Be sure of your target, backstop and beyond.
As far as training goes, sniper/observers must keep their bolts out of battery when looking at any other officers through the glass and get a buddy check for no live ammo. That may not apply to your department specifically, but it's good to know.
Another essential absolute is to ensure that during training where guns -- even plastic, non-firing guns -- are pointed at other human beings (or even during unarmed defensive tactics), that everyone needs to get patted down. EVERYONE. It doesn't have to be ultra invasive, just hit the spots where officers might carry a concealed weapon. Check their guns and bodies for live rounds and loaded magazines. No one's perfect, we all forget. Overconfidence, boastful egos and the "It will never happen here" or "It will never happen to me"-syndrome, gets people killed.
I cannot tell you how many advanced military, SWAT and other tactical schools I've attended across the nation where the "big boy" rules applied, and where no one wanted to pat down other officers. That's an accident waiting to happen, especially when you're dealing with firearms directly; frankly, it's stupid and dangerous. Moreover, if anyone leaves and returns, including any late-comers, everyone needs to be checked again.
We can never be too safe. Perhaps you may recall my safety briefs prior to teaching you and your officers on the range or in the school. We've got to be safe and help each other be safe. Safety is a culture and a mindset, but too often we fail to recognize that "officer safety" also means safety when conducting training and handling our personal, off-duty and duty firearms.
Finally, I'm presenting at this year's ILEETA Conference on Reintigrating the Returning Warrior. There are too many cops and too many veterans who are suffering. Hopefully they'll be a good turn out and officers and administrators can come away with some strategies for winning the personal war with stress, PTSD and depression. If you can't make it, feel free to let others know about it, if you think it would benefit them personally or professionally.
- Jeffrey Denning
- I'm the author of four books: Warrior SOS, The Work of Death, Together Forever, and Leaders Wanted. I'm in the doc film Please Remove Your Shoes. I've blogged for The Washington Times, and I write for Guns.com. I've worked for the high-profile U.S.-led Roadmap to Mideast Peace in Israel and Palestine. I've also worked as a SWAT team leader, a Federal Air Marshal and a sole-source training instructor on a classified contract with a U.S. government customer. My master's degree is in Military Studies and terrorism. I'm a former noncommissioned and commissioned Army officer, with service in Iraq. I've been Scuba diving and skydiving; I have trained with members of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team, and I'm an FBI-trained crisis negotiator. My interests lie in helping others and in strengthening America through inspiring moral courage, government fiscal responsibility and accountability, and maintaining principles that have made--and will continue to make--the United States of America a blessed and prosperous country. I'm a father of six, a husband, and a police officer. I reside in Utah, and I'm a Mormon. See also https://jeffreydenning.wordpress.com.