Last summer, police were engaged in a training scenario with a citizen volunteer, a shoot/no shoot scenario designed to teach the citizen, who was a librarian, what it is like to be a cop. A cop, who was playing the part of a bad guy, shot at her with his service weapon, which was supposed to be loaded only with blanks. It wasn’t. He shot her multiple times with a real bullet, and she was killed.
The police officer involved was arrested for manslaughter on Wednesday, six months after the shooting. There are those who claim that the shooting was an accident and nothing more. I disagree. It is unlikely that a magazine full of “blanks” contained a single live round. More than likely, the officer pulled a magazine of carry rounds from his weapon, and inserted a magazine of training rounds, leaving a live round in the chamber. This lack of basic weapon handling skill cost a woman her life. This was not an unavoidable accident, but a lack of regard for at least three of the four rules of firearm safety. It cost a woman her life, and a person is not exempt from that because they have a badge.
The officer isn’t the only one to blame. The department could be using training systems where real weapons are converted to fire non lethal marking rounds for training purposes. While modified, the weapons cannot fire live bullets. They could be using airsoft. Cap guns. Paintball. Anything but real weapons. These systems cost money though, and many departments don’t want to pay. Even though this one incident is costing the department millions in legal settlements and two officers, many departments continue to roll the dice in the name of thrift.
I used to work with SWAT, and did more than a couple of scenario based training sessions. During these sessions, we used real firearms that were inspected by instructors prior to the training to ensure they were unloaded. I was opposed to this, and for the exact reason above.
If you want to play cowboys and Indians (tactical version) then you have got to spend the money to do it safely. Even one training death is too many. There is nothing that we do in training that is worth killing anyone.