On the same day that two NYPD detectives shot and killed a man who brandished an air pistol, the Times has a pointed story about how the department could do more to train police cadets in using their guns. While police recruits are presented with realistic training situations, they don't engage in enough of them. “It’s very brief, minimal," one officer with a military background tells the Times of the training, referring to it as a "factory line" approach. "Firearms training is important—it's very important. And it's something that is not taken seriously."
Perhaps the main reason why cadets—and current officers—aren't subjected to undergo consistent, thorough firearms training is because using a weapon in the field is rare. Of the 23 million civilians encountered by the 35,000 members on the force in 2011, police used their firearms only 92 times.
“You can always train more,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly tells the paper.
“We can train people 30 days a year, 40 days a year. But obviously we have an obligation to get people on the street. We’re down 6,000 police officers already. How much training do you do?”
One former NYPD firearms instructor says he understands the budgetary concerns with incorporating more scenario-based training, but notes that given the number of high-profile and questionable shootings the department has been involved with this year, it would clearly be worth it (see a PDF of this RAND report for more).
“They have limited budgets. But I have to say, the best quarterbacks throw 300 footballs a day," the instructor said. “The truth is they should do a lot more. You have them out on the streets with a weapon, possibly taking someone’s life and they’re not receiving all that much in terms of real training. Dealing with dangerous situations is a perishable skill.”