Saturday, October 23, 2010

Annie Oakley Does Not Exist

The New York Times ran an article this week contrasting real life police work with TV police work. After police-involved shootings, cops are often asked why they didn't just shoot the weapon-wielding perpetrator in the hand or leg. Indeed, New York State Assembly Members Annette Robinson (D-Brooklyn) and Darryl Towns (D-Brooklyn) actually sponsored a bill earlier this year requiring police to shoot to wound if possible.
Two recent police shootings in New York City actually did result in shots to the legs which stopped a deranged man with a knife and a guy shooting at police respectively. However, as the article notes, this was more by accident than by design.
In fact, in the Thursday case at Pennsylvania Station, a second bullet fired by the officer missed the knife-wielding man and went flying into the pavement near the shooting scene.
Police officers, the article notes, are trained to shoot to stop the criminal by going for center of mass.
John C. Cerar, a retired deputy inspector who was the commander of the Police Department’s firearms training section, said officers are taught to shoot at center mass — which means the “head and torso” of a suspect like a man armed with a gun.

“You can’t just shoot to aim for a leg or an arm; it just doesn’t work,” Mr. Cerar said. “You are trying to hit the biggest part to the target, to stop the actions of the person using, or attempting, deadly physical force.”

He paused and added, “Annie Oakley does not exist.”
It is interesting to see the difference in reporting in the Times. The guy who covers the police beat recognizes the reality of the confusion, fear, and excitement inherent in violent encounters. Those who usually pen the editorials which involve firearms don't have a clue. At least somebody at the Times gets it.

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