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Police Shooting Stats: Accuracy, Negligent Discharges, and More

Image of Bryan Hill, Founder of Pistol Wizard Bryan Hill / October 02 2021

An officer goes through a training exercise.

In reviewing data from police, we might get an idea of what to expect from civilian defenders (like yourself), and learn lessons on where to focus our training.

On This Page:

  1. LAPD Accuracy in Shooting Incidents (2018)
  2. Dallas PD Accuracy in Shooting Incidents (2018)
  3. Unintentional Discharges (2018)
  4. Officer-involved Shootings (2017)
  5. The Surprising Deadly Threat Of Firearms Novices (2015)
  6. Officer-involved Shootings (2003)
  7. Conclusions

LAPD PD Accuracy in Shooting Incidents (2018)

LAPD Use of Force Year-end Review (2018)

This comprehensive report covers all aspects of use of force at LAPD. Pgs. 166-167 detail officer accuracy in officer-involved shootings (OIS) for the years 2014-2018.

Key Takeaways
  • On average, officers landed 32.4% of their shots from 2014-2018.
  • The accuracy dip in 2017 matches with nearly double or more the shots fired that year compared to 2016 and 2018:
    You can't miss fast enough to win. Still, accuracy recovered only moderately in 2018 with a return to the norm for total shots fired. Is it a training issue? Recruit selection issue? Bad luck?
  • The results are a far cry from depictions of police in TV and movies. If you expect officers to be so accurate they could shoot a gun out of a suspect's hands, look at real life instead of Hollywood.
  • You can review badge-cam video of many of LAPD offier-involved shootings to get a sense of what real shootings are like, and to learn from officer experience.

Dallas PD Accuracy in Shooting Incidents (2018)

Hitting (or missing) the mark: An examination of police shooting accuracy in officer-involved shooting incidents (2018)

This includes a review of studies on police accuracy in Officer-involved shootings (OIS), and reviews data from the Dallas Police OIS public data set maintained by Dallas Open Data and the City of Dallas.

The data set contained info on 231 OIS incidents from 2003 to 2017. Of those incidents, this study only looked at 149 single officer/single suspect shooting incidents, where a single suspect was fired on by a single officer.

Key Takeaways
  • On average, police hit at least once in 54% of incidents, but only 35% of shots fired struck the suspect.
    In 2017, only 2 shots were fired, and both hit. With such a small sample size in 2017, this could have been just due to luck, not an improvement in training or recruit selection.
  • Half the officers (67) failed to hit with any shots, while 40% of officers (53) landed 50% or more shots:
  • One officer fired 23 times without making a hit.
    You can't miss fast enough to win.
  • Officers were significantly less accurate at night. This could be from using a pistol in one hand with a flashlight in the other, instead of a two-handed pistol grip with a weapon-mounted light. Or, it could be from suspects just being harder to see at night, even with light sources.
  • The most accurate police departments have a total hit rate of around 50% in OIS. When every missed shot could strike a bystander, this study highlights gaps in quality and/or availability of pistol training for officers at Dallas PD.
  • Again, don't expect officers to shoot like they do in TV and movies. Real-world situations make shooting much tougher, and the quality of police training varies from department to department.

Unintentional Discharges (2018)

Further analysis of the unintentional discharge of firearms in law enforcement (2018)
This analyzes reported unintentional discharges by law enforcement.

Key Takeaways
  • 49% of harmful NDs (resulting in injury, property damage, death) happened during routine tasks.
  • Of those routine tasks, the top 3 types were unloading (34.6%), function checking (32.1%), and (un)holstering (18.5%).
  • 80% of deadly NDs were from muscle co-activation.
  • Of those muscle co-activations, the top 3 types were loss of balance (39%), use of other hand (29.2%), and loss of grip (19.5%).
  • NDs occur across firearm types, trigger actions, and trigger weights.

The Surprising Deadly Threat Of Firearms Novices (2015)

The Real Risks During Deadly Police Shootouts: Accuracy of The Naive Shooter (2015)
This took police recruits and grouped them as follows:
  • Expert: Police academy or military handgun training/certification.
  • Intermediate: Regular hunting/range practice, or military training with long guns.
  • Novice: No experience or minimal familiarity with firearms.
Recruits shot as fast and accurately as possible at a target set 9 distances away, between 3 and 75 ft. They had 3 shots per distance.

Key Takeaways
  • "Experts" performed about as well as "Intermediates" in overall accuracy.
    Overall Accuracy, 3-75 ft.
  • "Novices" performed only 10 points worse than the other groups at all distances (75% instead of 85%, 5% instead of 15%, etc.).
  • "Experts" made far fewer head shots than the other groups :
    Headshots at 3 ft.
    Headshots at 9 ft.
  • A 2011 FBI report found about 3 of 5 officers slain in gunfights were from shots to the head and neck. Other reports found that most slain officers died in gunfights within 10 ft. Those reports support this study's findings.
  • Officer training seems to over-emphasize body shots, and again fails to produce accuracy results in line with depictions of police in TV and movies.

Officer-involved Shootings (2003)

Officer-Involved Shootings: What We Didn’t Know Has Hurt Us (2003)
This looked at data collected by some of the US's largest police departments from 1981-2002. The time range varies between departments. For example, there's NYPD data from 1990-2000, and Miami-dade from 1988-1994. See the study for full details.

Key Takeaways
  • 50% of officers slain were within 5 ft. of their assailants; 71% were within 10 ft.:
    US Officer Deaths, 1991-2000
  • If you can, get at least 3 yds away from your assailant. The more you develop your skills, the more distance favors you.
  • Low light shootings account for at least 60% of police gunfights, and decrease accuracy by up to 30%. A good weapon-mounted light would probably help here.
  • Accuracy varies widely by police department:

  • In 1981, NYPD reported not using their sights in 70% of gunfights. They used sights more as distance increased.
  • Other studies have revealed that police not using sights is a widespread issue, especially at close range.
  • This study is a bit old. Newer data from each police department would give a clearer picture on police performance today.

Conclusions

  • Police accuracy in gunfights depends on the quality of their training program, and some luck.
  • Training for the range can build a good foundation, but it doesn't translate to training for real fights.
  • Police often don't use iron sights in gunfights, especially at close range. Sights that let you focus on the target (like lasers and red dots) may be more useful there.
  • Most police NDs are from routine tasks, but the deadliest ones are from the officer's finger being on the trigger before they had chosen to fire.
  • Get at least 3 yds away from the threat. More distance is better.

References

  1. Hitting (or missing) the mark: An examination of police shooting accuracy in officer-involved shooting incidents (2018)
  2. Further analysis of the unintentional discharge of firearms in law enforcement (2018)
  3. LAPD Use of Force Year-end Review (2018)
  4. Improving Visual Processing During Deadly Force Encounters and Recommendations for Officer Training (2018)
  5. Hitting (or missing) the mark: An examination of police shooting accuracy in officer-involved shooting incidents (2018)
  6. Police officer involved shootings – retrospective study of situational characteristics (2017)
  7. Update On Force Science Research About Unintentional Discharges (2017)
  8. The Real Risks During Deadly Police Shootouts: Accuracy of The Naive Shooter (2015)
  9. Quiet Eye Characteristics that can Save an Officer's Life (2012)
  10. Officer-Involved Shootings: What We Didn’t Know Has Hurt Us (2003)


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