In light of the national gun violence debate that is currently taking place in Washington and in state capitols across the country, a new trend is developing: Police officers are being trained to override hesitation when shooting a suspect. Law Enforcement Targets, Inc., a Minneapolis-based company that supplies shooting targets for the Department of Homeland […]
In light of the national gun violence debate that is currently taking place in Washington and in state capitols across the country, a new trend is developing: Police officers are being trained to override hesitation when shooting a suspect.
Law Enforcement Targets, Inc., a Minneapolis-based company that supplies shooting targets for the Department of Homeland Security, has begun to produce “no more hesitation” (NMH) targets, which feature the photos of children, senior citizens, mothers in playgrounds and a pregnant woman — all armed with a handgun. Law Enforcement Targets has indicated that these were a “requested law enforcement target for training.”
In a recording of a telephone conversation with a representative for Law Enforcement Targets that was released on YouTube, the company explained that “unfortunately our world is made up of people, pregnant or otherwise, that are gun owners not for the right reasons,” adding that the targets were to “train police officers.” The representative did make the point that these targets could be used as “don’t shoot” targets.
According to Law Enforcement Target’s marketing team, “The subjects in NMH targets were chosen in order to give officers the experience of dealing with deadly force shooting scenarios with subjects that are not the norm during training. I found while speaking with officers and trainers in the law enforcement community that there is a hesitation on the part of cops when deadly force is required on subjects with atypical age, frailty or condition (one officer explaining that he enlarged photos of his own kids to use as targets so that he would not be caught off guard with such a drastically new experience while on duty).”
“This hesitation time may be only seconds, but that is not acceptable when officers are losing their lives in these same situations,” the marketing team continues. “The goal of NMH is to break that stereotype on the range, regardless of how slim the chances are of encountering a real life scenario that involves a child, pregnant woman, etc. If that initial hesitation time can be cut down due to range experience, the officer and community are better served.”
It is generally argued that in police work, the officer must slow down to make an informed decision when engaging a suspect. As argued by Terrence Dwyer for PoliceOne, “There are no illusions on the part of any experienced officer that his/her actions will not reverberate beyond the immediate scene of an incident. It is an accepted part of the job, an expectation for which every officer must be prepared. Police officers have to articulate, explain and justify their actions, a failure to adequately do so can lead to release of a suspect, civil liability or, in the extreme, criminal charges. This latter possibility is more likely to occur with an officer’s use of force, particularly deadly physical force.”
In deciding to shoot a suspect, a police officer must factor in the danger of non-involved individuals, his own safety, possible collateral damage and the threat assessment of the suspect. At no time should shooting a suspect be a reflex.
Law Enforcement Targets do have $5.5 million in contracts with the federal government, so it is not clear if any of these targets are meant for non-federal law enforcement. However, as federal agencies purchased 2 billion rounds of ammunition over the last 10 months, many are concerned with the government’s intentions.