Critics say that New York City Police Department recruits and officers receive high-quality firearm training, but it doesn’t happen frequently enough, according to the New York Times.
Outside of the police academy classroom, cadets only practice real-world situations with their firearms for three days, and full-fledged officers only head to Rodman’s Neck – the NYPD’s shooting range in the Bronx – twice a year. A third day is spent at the department’s “Tactical Village,” a mock streetscape where they role-play handling different violent scenarios.
“You have them out on the streets with a weapon, possibly taking someone’s life,” a former instructor at the Rodman’s Neck shooting range told the Times, on the condition of anonymity, “and they’re not receiving all that much in terms of real training.”
After the November 2006 death of 23-year-old Sean Bell, who was killed by police fire on the night before his wedding day, the NYPD hired the RAND Corporation to investigate their firearms training programs.
The 2008 report said that between 4,000 recruits and nearly 35,000 officers passing each year through Rodman’s Neck, training had been rushed.
“The size of the class in attendance ... and the limited amount of time allocated to the role-playing exercises meant that no single recruit participated in more than one exercise and that approximately half of the recruits did not have an active role in any exercise,” the report said, according to the Times.
Fortunately, police shootings, and those resulting in fatalities, are rare. According to the department’s Annual Firearms Discharge Report, out of 35,000 officers on the force, only 92 bullets were fired. Of those shootings, 19 led to injuries, and 9 resulted in death.
Because bullets are rarely fired, the NYPD doesn’t want to spend more money on more training, says the unnamed source at Rodman’s Neck.
But Commissioner Ray Kelly balked at the idea that the budget was the reason for a lack of extra training, and said the police department was doing the best they could with the available resources, according to the Times.
“You can always train more,” Kelly told 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?”