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Las Vegas PD police chase and shooting – what can we learn from it?

We’ve all seen this video or at least a short version of it. The facts of the story are very straightforward – two convicted felons with lengthy criminal history committed a murder and were trying to get away from police in the stolen Ford Expedition SUV. During the chase, they fired 34 rounds at police officers and hit the police vehicle at least 5 times.

If you want to know more, just watch this amazing video from the police press conference.

During the chase, a police officer had to return fire with his handgun (Glock 17 with WML), firing a total of 31 rounds. Without any doubt, the officer demonstrated exceptional professionalism and bravery and effectively resolved the situation.

What created a controversy were officer’s weapon manipulation techniques, particularly his two-handed grip:

The fact that his finger was on the trigger most of the time:

And inefficient reload technique:

Back in the day, there was a training program in Russia, when the army and LE units were hiring competition shooters as temporary instructors so they can teach some basic marksmanship classes and instructor development courses.

For some time, I was a part of this program, and I really hated how some instructors would talk down to officers and make fun of them for poor shooting skills. Being an officer in any LE unit requires a large set of skills and shooting is just one of them and frankly, not the most important.

Also, I believe we can’t really hold police officers completely responsible for the level of skills that they have. Department has to provide adequate training, ammo and range time. Yes, in a perfect world police officers can go to the range to hone their skills on their time and dime, but realistically we can’t expect that to happen.

If anyone should be concerned and worried about weapon manipulation skills of this officer, it is police firearms instructors who are responsible for training and qualification in that particular department.

Note that all other skills that officer demonstrates during the video, such as driving and communication are top-notch. He communicates throughout the entire chase, gives clear directions about where the suspect’s vehicle is moving.

More importantly, his driving skills are very impressive. Just like in shooting, in defensive driving, the grip is very important. Two most popular steering wheel grips are 2-10 and 3-9, second becoming more popular in the recent years. During the entire chase, the officer has a textbook 9 o’clock steering wheel grip, quickly adding his right hand on to 3 o’clock position when some high-speed steering is required.

So, why his grip on the steering wheel is perfect, but his grip on the handgun – not so much?

The answer is simple – he probably was taught incorrectly and never had an opportunity to practice. With driving, you do it every day, with shooting – not really, unless you dry fire.

The police officer in the video did what he was taught, and it is not his fault that he was taught incorrectly.

But I believe there is a more important takeaway from this video. Over the years, I always told the students: the phrase “you fight like you train” is not exactly true. There are certain things that happen in a gunfight, it has its own its rules and dynamics, and only if your training reflects that – you will, in fact, fight like you train. But if your training does not reflect reality – you won’t fight like you train. Instead, you will do what is logical and natural, despite having no practice.

This video is a perfect example. I don’t know for sure, but I can assume that police officer in the video probably did not practice to shoot on the move. Despite that, he is shooting on the move, and does it very effectively, at the end of the video.

I can also assume that he never fired a weapon from the inside of the vehicle before (or maybe just familiarization during academy), but he had to do it, despite probably having zero experience doing that in training.

He also had to reload, even though he either didn’t do it much in training (or was far enough past training that his skills were rusty). He immediately moved to cover after shooting on the move, again, something he probably never practiced before, because almost no one really does that on the range, but under fire, that is what people usually do.

Last, but not least – shooting cadence. Officer consistently shot  3-4 shots a second during the entire incident. You rarely see this cadence of fire during training and police qualifications, but during actual gunfights that is, in fact, the cadence you hear.

The reality doesn’t care that you only had an opportunity to train on a square range, where speed shooting was prohibited. The choice you have is either train for what will really happen or live in a fantasy world and when the times comes, try to wing it.

You might get lucky, you might not, but don’t forget about the term called “Survivor bias“. Many people, who died because of their poor weapon manipulation skills, will never be able to share their story.  Shooting is a perishable skill and one that requires constant practice and training to remain at a high level of proficiency.  Compounding skills by adding a vehicle only increases the complexity, and kudos to this officer for successfully surviving this encounter and effectively ending the threat.

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