Shoot To Wound? No Way!

Shoot To Wound? No Way!

We’ve all seen it on TV and in movies, and we’ve read it in books. You know the scene, the one where the good guy draws his trusty six-shooter and shoots the gun from bad guy’s hand. Great shooting, huh? Well, darn near impossible shooting is what it is, especially when the good guy is in a stressful situation and must make a split-second decision. Like when his life may be ending at any moment!

However, two New York Assembly members, Annette Robinson and Darryl Towns, (neither of the two have a second of police experience), have introduced a “Shoot To Wound” bill. This dangerous piece of legislation would require law enforcement officers who are faced with life or death situations, such as being involved in a shootout, to shoot the suspects in the arms or legs, or maybe even perform the old movie trick of shooting the gun out of the criminal’s hand. The idea of the bill is to prevent the death of the suspect who is trying his best to gun down a police officer.

First of all, only the best of the best marksmen could come remotely close to shooting with such precise accuracy. It takes a lot of practice to become an expert sharpshooter, and practice is not something many cops have the opportunity to do. Ammunition is expensive. In fact, with shrinking  department budgets many agencies supply only enough rounds for annual mandatory in-service firearms qualification. SWAT teams and other special teams may be allowed extra ammunition for training, but not patrol officers and investigators, the cops on the front lines day in and day out. And then there’s the time thing. Officers work odd, long hours, sometimes for a couple days at a time if they’re working on a particularly time-sensitive case. But they have to sleep sometime. If not, fatigue can also be a huge factor in an officer’s reaction time during deadly incidents, as well as affecting the officer’s accuracy with shot placement. Therefore, heading to the range in lieu of grabbing a few hours sleep before working the graveyard shift just ain’t gonna happen.

Police officers are trained to shoot center mass. The center mass of a human, the torso, which is the largest target on the body and, obviously, the largest target would be the easiest target to hit when having to return fire in a shootout. Taking aim and shooting a suspect in the hand, arm, or leg while dodging bullets as they zip by your ears is simply not practical. At least shooting center mass gives the officer a fighting chance to stay alive.

Hands, arms, and feet are the fastest moving parts of a body, and attempting to hit one of those greatly decreases the officer’s chances of hitting her target. Actually, hitting anything that’s moving, on purpose, would involve some pretty good shooting. Add the fact that the officer could also be moving at the time of the shooting and you further decrease the chance of hitting a hand or arm.

Now, suppose the officer did manage to hit the approved target, a hand. So what. The suspect may be so intent on completing his goal of killing the cop that he switches hands to continue firing. Or, a shot in the leg would probably do nothing to deter a suspect who’s intent on killing a cop. How about the shooters who are high on meth? Those folks do some crazy, unexpected things.

I remember a guy who pulled a gun on police and was shot 33 times. He survived. In fact, he continued walking toward the officers. The shootout I was in with the bank robber is another good example. I shot the suspect 5 times, once in the head and four times in the chest (all were center mass shots—center mass of what I could see). Yet he still got up and made a final charge. A sheriff’s captain and I tackled him during his run at other officers. When we rolled him over he still had the gun in his hand. I can assure you that shooting the robber in the hand or foot was not an option. He was shooting at us and there was no time to take aim at a trigger finger.

What about the rounds that miss the hand and foot targets? I believe the percentage of hitting center mass targets during shootouts is below 20%. So that means there are already some stray bullets floating around neighborhoods and city streets during firefights. The number of missed shots would greatly increase if officers were forced to aim for much smaller targets. Besides, there are large arteries in the arms and legs. A single round to the femoral artery could cause a pretty rapid death. Dead is dead, no matter where the wound is located.

I think Vice President Biden best described this ridiculous bill best when he named it the “John Wayne” bill.

Hmm…that’s probably not what the VP meant…

I’ll say it again, no one can know what it’s like unless you’ve been cursed at, hit, slapped, stabbed, cut, spit on, and shot at. Ah, a cop’s life. It’s all glitz and glamor.

14 replies
  1. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    It is my greatest hope this bill passes and next they should take away nite sticks of all types. NYPD officers are being abused at an alarming rate by both the Deputy Commissioner of the Advocates office and Deputy Commissioner of Trials. NYPD officers will learn the Kelly administration want to steal money by way of fines both from the public and officers. Remember “Do nothings never get in trouble” but they do get promoted.

  2. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    No, Bob, officers are never trained to shoot to kill. I’m a former police academy firearms instructor, defensive tactics instructor/instructor trainer, and instructor for officer survival so I have a little background in this area (I trained and certified law enforcement officers from over a dozen jurisdictions.) We taught officers to stop the threat, and once the threat was over so should be the use of force.

    In fact, I was at the police academy just yesterday for in-service training. This very bill was the topic of the first part of the class. The message in the class was very clear—when the suspect’s level of force de-escalates, so must the amount of force used by the officer. I’ll be posting an article about this training next week.

    Here’s an article about the assemblywoman’s bill from the NY Times:

    ALBANY — An assemblywoman under fire for sponsoring a bill that asks cops to shoot gun-wielding suspects in the arms and legs brushed off the outrage yesterday — although she admitted she is no expert on police work.

    Asked about her critics’ contention that the proposed legislation will put police lives at risk, Annette Robinson (D-Brooklyn) told The Post: “I understand that.”

    She insisted that cops use too much force, but acknowledged she is unqualified to assess the issue.

    “Not being a police officer, I would not be able to discuss the instance or the time that happens, but I do know that it happens, most often in the communities that I represent, and it happens too often,” she said.

    The “shoot to wound” bill would require cops to aim for a suspect’s arms or legs instead of their midsection, where wounds would more likely be fatal.

    But “police are not champion marksmen,” an angry Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes said yesterday. “It’s unrealistic to think cops can shoot someone in the leg in the heat of the moment.”

    Police Commissioner Ray Kelly added, “It makes no sense to anyone who knows anything about law enforcement.”

    Robinson has the support of Assemblyman Darryl Towns (D-Brooklyn), who added, “We have had several cases that have been questioned and I supported my colleague in her approach and I think our intent is to open up discussion and have debate.”

    The bill was originally pitched in 2000 — a year after the police shooting of unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo — by then-Sen. David Paterson.

  3. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    Lee, I was as dumbfounded as you were when I read your piece, but wait. Has anyone read the text?

    How did your trainer explain use of force to you? Mine said “You shoot to stop the threat, then you stop shooting.” I was never trained to “shoot to kill.” Heck, even in the Army, we were told that a wounded enemy was better than a dead enemy, since it took so many people to move a wounded troop off the battlefield. We understood that “stop” sometimes meant “kill,” but it was always made clear (at least to me) that you shoot to stop.

    At any rate, I did some digging, and here’s the text:

    Start at line 22:
    S 125.15 Manslaughter in the second degree.
    A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when…HE OR SHE IS A POLICE OFFICER OR PEACE OFFICER WHO KILLS A PERSON

    At first glance, it’s not quite so bad. It doesn’t specify wounding, or arms/legs/shooting the gun out of anyone’s hand. The main concern I have with the current text is “beyond the minimal amount of force necessary.” That is phrased VERY subjectively, and would almost certainly be construed as critically as possible by a DA looking at the next election. I agree that this probably doesn’t need to be codified at the state level; this is something that needs to be addressed in each department’s SOP, or something of that nature.

  4. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Being a Jersey Girl I feel compelled to give you my first thought on this:

    They want NYC cops to shoot at arms and legs! What about the poor by-standers? How many of those people who can’t duck or run fast are going to get hit by the missed rounds?

    I guess these idiots area trying to cutdown the population of New Yorkers.

    Still shaking my head on this one.

  5. Jana McBurney-Lin
    Jana McBurney-Lin says:

    Thanks for the info on this dumb legislation. I hope you’ve sent your ounce of sanity to Washington. It’s interesting how people with absolutely no experience at something are often the most vocal. (I heard a piece on NPR about how draft-dodging congressmen were the eagerest ones to go to war.)
    It’s also interesting that in our race to be ‘humane’ we forget the origin of the shootout (or prison sentence, or death sentence, etc.)

  6. Stefanie
    Stefanie says:

    My dad’s a public defender, very much into protecting the life and limb of even criminals. He’s biased against many things that would make a cop’s job easier on the grounds that it usually endangers everyone else, however we try to make sure that the danger falls on actual criminals alone. My family is also very much anti-guns.

    And Dad was appalled when I once naively suggested that police officers should shoot to wound. “You think that they have time to be choosy in a life-or-death situation?!”

    The time to be squeamish is before guns are in play, not after.

  7. Jena
    Jena says:

    Someone should take these two out to a firing range and then to a training exercise where bad guy / good guy silhouettes jump up in front of them and they have to decide who to shoot at — with the requirement they must “shoot to wound” only. What a pair of chuckleheads.

  8. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Ironically, I’m heading out right now for in-service training (FATS) for officers from various departments participating in an Advanced Patrol Techniques class.

  9. queenofmean
    queenofmean says:

    All I can do is shake my head on this one. You really have to wonder just how stupid some people are.

  10. Shawntel
    Shawntel says:

    This is just plain stupid. Those who think the police should be able to pull off such a feat should try it themselves. Just ain’t gonna happen.

  11. Mack
    Mack says:

    I wonder if they actually thought the legislation a good idea or if they were going for publicity that played to a specific audience. Either way, Jim’s comment applies.

    This reminds me of the recent story out of Gresham, OR where a citizen with a concealed handgun permit tried to shoot out the tires of the car two thieves were escaping in. The shots were in direct line with a park and ride stop. You should read the comments. Many people think he is a hero doing what the police should be doing which is apparently gunning down thieves.

  12. Jim Born
    Jim Born says:

    Idiots should not be allowed to speak in public let alone introduce legislation.

    Jim B

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