The FBI put out Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers after identifying 40 cases of serious attacks on police officers and then interviewing both the officers and the attackers in each case about the training they received, the weapons they used, their practice habits, and their attitudes towards violence:
The first thing that the researchers learned is that our assumptions about criminals not training are wrong. Nearly 40% of the criminal attackers in this study had received FORMAL firearms training (mostly in the military). More than 80% of the criminal attackers regularly practiced with their firearms, with an average number of 23 Practice Sessions Per Year! They conducted these practice sessions in trash dumps, wooded areas, back yards and “street corners in known drug trafficking areas”. What that means is that the practice sessions were taking place in realistic environments, under conditions similar to those the attackers were likely to face in combat.
The cops involved in these incidents all had some type of formal training at their departments, but on average, only fired their guns 2.5 times per year. All of that training was conducted on a static shooting range that had little relevance to the environmental conditions where the cops actually fought.
More than 40% of the criminals identified in the study had at least one gunfight experience before attacking the officer. 25% of the attackers had been involved in more than five gunfights!
Take a look at this guy. He was 29 years old when he was killed by a homeowner during a home invasion. He had previously been shot in 10 other incidents and survived! Do you think that he might have picked up a few insights about gunfighting during some of those shootings?
I train cops for a living. Its my job to talk to cops about what works and what doesn’t. I don’t currently know a single cop who has been involved in 10 on-the-job gunfights.
The officers in the Violent Encounters study had far less actual experience. Less than 25% of the officers had been involved in a shooting incident before their attacks. The largest number of shootings in which any of the officers had been involved was three. On average, each officer had been involved in four incidents in which they were legally justified in shooting a criminal, but they chose not to shoot.
Both groups had different attitudes as a result of their differing levels of training and experience. The officers went out of their way to avoid gunfights. The study noted “It appeared clear that none of the officers were willing to use deadly force against an opponent if other options were available.”
Contrast that with the attitude of their attackers. The report noted “Offenders typically displayed no moral or ethical restraints in using firearms…In fact, the street combat veterans survived by developing a shoot- first mentality.”