There are many valuable lessons to be learned from the LAPD Categorical Use Of Force reports. http://www.lapdonline.org/categorical_use_of_force Most of those lessons relate to the dynamics of Officer Involved Shootings. However, the reports also provide a detailed account for every Unintentional Discharge by a Los Angeles POlice Officer. This particular incident relates to the UD of a snub revolver.
Officer A brought his/her back-up service revolver home with the intention to clean it.
With the muzzle of the revolver pointed toward the ground, Officer A held the revolver with his/her right hand and used his/her right thumb to push the cylinder release button, disengaging the cylinder from the revolver. Once the cylinder disengaged, Officer A placed his/her left hand under the open cylinder and used his/her left index finger to depress the ejector rod, releasing the live rounds into his/her left hand. Officer A did not count the live rounds and placed them on top of the kitchen counter directly behind him/her. Officer A then closed the cylinder.
Officer A held his/her revolver with two hands in a standing shooting position. He/she raised his/her revolver and pointed it in the direction of the vertical blinds covering a sliding glass doors, which led to an exterior patio. Officer A placed his/her finger on the trigger and pressed it to dry fire the revolver. Officer A conducted two dry fire presses of the trigger.
According to Officer A, he/she normally conducted dry trigger press exercises approximately three times per week, on his/her days off. However, Officer A stated that he/she usually practices with his/her semi-automatic service pistol, and this was the first time that he/she practiced with his/her revolver.
According to Officer A, believing his/her revolver was still unloaded, he/she placed his/her finger on the trigger and pressed it a third time, which caused the revolver to discharge a single round. No one was injured by the discharge.
Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners’ Findings
The BOPC determined that Officer A’s actions violated the Department’s Basic Firearm Safety Rules and found Officer A’s Unintentional Discharge to be Negligent.
Lessons To Be Learned From The Incident
The value of reading about incidents like this is not to criticize or heap scorn but rather to learn hard lessons from someone else’s Negative Outcome.
- Revolvers have multiple chambers not just one like an autoloading pistol. Especially if the revolver is dirty, either from firing or carrying, it’s not uncommon for one or two rounds to remain in the cylinder when the rest eject. Two factors can contribute to this. One, the ejector rod of a snub is shorter than the cases so it doesn’t push the rounds completely out. Two, gravity has effect when loading or unloading a revolver. If the revolver is not held completely vertical when being unloaded, gravity causes the cases to drag on the bottom of the chambers. This is simply physics in action.
- “Officer A placed his/her left hand under the open cylinder and used his/her left index finger to depress the ejector rod, releasing the live rounds into his/her left hand.” This is pretty much impossible to do with the revolver held vertically. It is also a bad repetition of reloading procedure. While we sometimes have to perform administrative functions with our guns, those administrative actions should mimic our actual handling and firing procedures, whenever possible. In this case, ejecting the rounds straight down as if getting ready to reload would be a better procedure.
- Count the rounds when they come out of the revolver. You should be aware how many chambers your revolver has. Five chambers but only four rounds indicates a problem. Note that a nickel plated single round in the cylinder of a stainless or anodized revolver is not necessarily immediately obvious. By counting the rounds and then carefully examining the cylinder, the chances of a round remaining in a chamber is mitigated.
- Dummy ammunition not only protects the firing pin, hammer nose, or striker of a handgun during dry practice, it also provides an additional layer of safety during the practice session. If a visually identifiable dummy is in the chamber(s), then a live round cannot be. This is also physics. Dummies are available from A-Zoom and ST Action Pro. They can be found on Amazon or better gun stores.
- Dry practice should always be conducted at a specific target located on some kind of bullet resistant backstop. “[V]ertical blinds covering a sliding glass doors [sic] leading to an exterior patio” DO NOT fulfill this requirement.
Dry practice is a valuable way to build skill, especially with a wheelgun. Make sure that you are alert and focused on the task and observe safety procedures rigorously.
Tactical Professor books are NOT FREE but if you would be interested in knowing how to better operate the firearms you own during the American Insurgency, they can be purchased from the menu at the top of the page.
Not only did Officer “A” perform an incomplete unloading procedure, the Officer compounded the problem by reporting it at work. Should anyone this naive and mechanically incompetent be doing Law Enforcement work?
LAPD officers are required by policy to report any discharge of a firearm, either on or off duty. As such, it would be an integrity violation for the officer not to have reported it. Integrity is something we expect of the POlice so I’m glad the officer did.
Claude, If the errant bullet damaged an other persons property, or caused injury, not reporting the incident would be an overt ‘integrity’ violation. Not formally reporting the UD and damage to your own door glass would be a covert integrity violation. Simply discuss the issue at Confession. Even if Officer A is not Catholic, a Priest will listen. All will be forgiven.
The department manual commands all peace officer employees to report the discharge of a firearm outside of under supervision on an approved range. Unintended discharges are identified in the manual as a Categorical Use of Force and shall be investigated under standing protocol. LAPD manual Volume 3 Section 792 et seq. The manual is available on line for reference.
While it is nice to think that an officer who shot their own patio door inadvertently should just clean up the mess, get the door repaired and say nothing more, this situation is a lot like a golfer calling the penalty on themselves. Non reporting would be a covert integrity violation only so long as it takes for the department to find out from someone other than the officer themselves…. which has far worse effect than throwing the flag on ones self. If the officer has no idea where the bullet impacted, after it took out the patio door how could they, in good conscience, keep their mouth shut? If someone on their patio two buildings over caught the errant round in the head, and the officer had said nothing… then what?
We all make mistakes. I worked with a guy who shot another guys locker when he was practicing his draw stroke while alone in the locker room. He owned up to it, took the discipline and the remedial training then moved on. It’s my opinion that those of us who are willing to wear our mistakes learn the most from them.
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