We’ve all seen TV shows and movies where nobody (good guy or bad) can hit the broad side of a barn. After a gazillion rounds, not one single bullet has connected with the intended targets and the only thing hurt is the house/car/fruit stand between the shooter and the person they were supposedly trying to hit. The typical viewer conclusion is that the cops are bad shots or that the script is meant to be a comedy.
Guess what? It’s not as easy to shoot on target as you might think.
I’m a decent shot with my S & W snubnose .38 personal revolver and my Glock service piece when I’m at the firing range, standing still facing a suspect straight on, or when crouched behind the cruiser, but I’ve never had to shoot at anybody on the run. And, not a large percentage of real-life law enforcement officers outside metropolitan areas do either. I’ve been told there are some police officers that have never fired their department issued guns their entire careers.
Back in the 1980s, the FBI did a study about gunfights. They found that most shootings were under three yards, lasted about three seconds, involved three or less rounds (bullets), and the hits? About 20% on target.
For the guys and gals who want to work in the larger towns and cities, practice is the only way to make sure that the guns can be relied upon to do their jobs. Sessions at the range are required only three or four times a year in most communities, but instructors are usually available for refresher tips and the department pays for the ammo. However, if I want to visit the range more often – once a month to stay as proficient as the drug dealers I might go up against – I pay for my own ammo. It varies, but ammo for my .38 revolver costs between 50 cents and a buck a bullet unless I can get a deal.
But, even a top shot needs more training than shooting at a bulls-eye type target and learning deadly force policy. It’s not enough to be able to shoot the gun in a quiet, controlled setting. Police academies are now including FATS (Firearms Training Simulator) or Meggitt training, as a safe way to place officers (and civilians) in scenarios that mimic real life. Interactive videos might include shooting in a crowded mall, deciding whether a twelve year old getting out of a vehicle is armed and dangerous, choosing which of two similar looking women is a fleeing suspect with a gun…and the copied-from-actual-cases list goes on.
The first time I tried the simulator, I was so distracted by the people who were in motion in the scene that I shot a file cabinet. Dead. My instructor didn’t laugh, because while I was busy shooting office furniture and wasting rounds, the suspect got away.
A few of the areas covered during the best refresher training:
1) low-light and decision-making shooting
2) shooting while moving to cover
3) one-handed firing
4) multiple targets
5) verbal challenges
6) what to do when the gun malfunctions while under fire
Rules that actual flesh and blood cops live by?
They try to avoid getting into gunfights, but if the bullets start flying, they know:
1 Real cops don’t fire warning shots.
2) Real cops don’t shoot guns out of a suspect’s hand
3) Real cops don’t cut vans in half with machine guns.
4) They do aim for the center of the body.
In an actual exchange of gunfire, the heart rate goes up, palms start sweating, the mouth goes dry, hearing is distorted, tunnel vision often occurs, fine motor skills decrease, thought processes slow down, and officers can get the shakes because they are operating on adrenaline. The only way to combat and reduce the natural ‘fight and flight’ response is to train, train, train to develop muscle memory.
Thanks to Rick McMahan, a special agent with Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who has been an instructor at the Writer’s Police Academy each September for several years. His classes have been an invaluable source of information.
Additional information from www.PoliceOne.com
*Photos by Patti Phillips
It’s been raining off and on for days. The grass is getting greener and the garden looks pretty good right now. We may even get a bumper crop of tomatoes. It even rained last week during Becki Green’s party, and people were tracking water and a little mud from the driveway runoff onto the porch all afternoon. We had so many different kinds of footprints that it would have made for a great crime scene demonstration.
Because, one of the most overlooked pieces of evidence at a crime scene is created by footwear.
Imagine: If a window breaks as a thief enters the premises during the commission of a burglary, the glass will fall into the house, and onto the floor or rug below the window. When the thief steps through the window, unless the thief has wings, he/she will probably plant a foot right in the middle of the glass. And walk through the house, most likely tracking minute pieces of that glass. That glass may also become embedded in the grooves of the sole of the shoe, creating a distinctive footprint.
If the investigating officer can place a suspect at the scene with the footprint, then there is probable cause to fingerprint that suspect and hopefully establish a link to the crime.
A new method of eliminating suspects right at the scene involves stepping into a tray that contains a pad soaked with harmless clear ink that doesn’t stain, then stepping onto a chemically treated impression card. No messy cleanup, immediate results, and it can even show details of wear and tear on the shoe. This can be a way to establish a known standard (we know where this impression came from) to compare with multiple tread prints at the scene.
Another tool for creating a known standard is the foam impression system. It takes a bit longer, (24 hours) but clear, crisp impressions can be made, including of the pebbles and bits stuck deep into the grooves and the writing on the arch. Very helpful when trying to place suspects at the scene. A rock stuck in the sole is a random characteristic that can’t be duplicated, so becomes another point of identification.
This is how it works: Somebody steps into a box of stiff-ish foam – a bit like stepping into wet sand.
An impression is made instantaneously. The detail is great – down to the wear on the heel.
Pre-mixed dental stone (made with distilled water and the powder) is used to fill the impression.
It takes 24 hours for the cast to become firm enough to pop out of the foam. We now have a permanent record of the footwear tread, which could be used for comparison to other prints found at the scene.
Occasionally footprints are found on the ground outside a window or in the gardens surrounding a house after a burglary or homicide. Ever see a crime show on TV where the fictional investigator makes a snap judgment about the height and weight of the owner of the footprint because of the depth of the impression? That’s merely a plot device and is not scientific evidence in real life. A crime scene photographer or investigator can photograph the footprint (next to a measurement scale), make a take away cast, and then compare the impression with those of the suspects or other bystanders at the scene. Beware: making a cast of the print destroys the print, so a photograph must be taken before pouring that first drop of dental stone.
Footprints can be found at bloody crime scenes as well. The suspect walks through the blood, tracks it through the house, cleans it up, but the prints are still there, even though not obvious to the naked eye. Blood just doesn’t go away, no matter how hard you try to get rid of it. It seeps into the cracks and crevices of a floor and even behind baseboards.
A savvy investigator will collect sections of carpet (or flooring) taken from where the suspect might have walked during the commission of the crime, then conduct a presumptive test for blood (LCV – Aqueous Leuco Crystal Violet), find a usable footprint, compare it to a known standard, and then be able to place the suspect at the scene.
Be careful where you walk. That footprint can be used as evidence.
*Photos taken by Patti Phillips
There are lots of great people in law enforcement and Kerrian’s Notebook is just the place for you to meet them in a friendly, non-threatening environment. We caught Becki Green in between cases and she even had time to share her fave brownie recipe with us. Sheila gives it a big thumbs-up as an easy recipe. I give the brownies a thumbs-up for taste. They went great with my coffee. 😉
Meet Becki Green.
Thank You For Inviting Me, What Can I Bring?
“Charlie,” I ask, “is being a visiting detective anything like being a visiting professor? If I remember correctly from my college days, visiting professors give guest lectures and— Are you choking, Charlie? What? Not what you’re looking for? Not at all? Then maybe I could…uh…”
Oh, hello everyone! I’m Rebekkah Green, Vegetarian Detective. Please call me Becki. I assume you all know what a sweetie Charlie Kerrian is. Today he’s been so kind as to invite me to guest here on his blog. Thank you, Charlie, and I’m so pleased to meet you all.
The timing of this invitation couldn’t be more perfect because A Purse to Die For—the very first mystery novel in which I’m the loyal sidekick—is one year old this month. It’s something I really want to celebrate with you! Because, you see, you’ve already given me the very best present I could ask for: publisher Imajin Books confirmed that A Purse to Die For is a best-seller. Thank you very, very much.
So what can I bring to the party? Something I can share with you all in gratitude? I’m thinking…what’s a party without food? How about I bring my famous 100% veggie Brownies?
“Charlie, don’t worry, there’s not a speck of broccoli in them. I was just joking. All desserts are vegetarian.”
There, a single lit candle on top of my virtual Brownies…I’m making a wish…that I meet you again when you pop in sometime at www.vegetariandetective.blogspot.com. Authors Cynthia St-Pierre and Melodie Campbell will also be pleased if you drop by at www.fashionationwithmystery.com. Wow, I’ve still got it: enough breath to blow out all the candles!
*Photo of the yummy looking brownie taken by Becki Green at her house. All ours are gone.
Please click here for more information about A PURSE TO DIE FOR (author bios, where to buy the book, and comments from happy readers).