The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is undergoing a rocky transition to their new Smith & Wesson pistols, with a spike in negligent discharges that have led to injured Sherrif’s Department employees.
According to Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman, these injuries are a result of inadequate training and in some cases, bad habits. Currently, no one outside of the department has been injured, although Huntsman is concerned about the safety of bystanders.
“There is a continued risk that either LASD employees or civilians may be seriously wounded or killed by an unintended discharge,” Huntsman reported. Deputies transitioning to the M&P pistols are given an 8-hour course on the new pistols before they can make the switch.
Problems with their new handguns date back to 2013 after the department began the changeover from the Beretta 92FS to the M&P 9. The department has added about 6,100 M&P pistols to their inventory.
The two guns have different manuals of arms and field-strip differently. Huntsman’s report draws the conclusion that more training is necessary.
“The vast majority were people trained on the Beretta,” said Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers to the Los Angeles Times last year. “There is a correlation, no doubt about it.”
“We welcome the IG’s input as to some things we can do better,” said Rogers in response to the report. “But we saw this coming before any outside pressure caused us to respond.”
Rogers added that negligent discharges have been down in 2015, in part due to the LASD taking extra steps to ensure that their staff understands better how to handle and use their new guns.
According to the report, in 2014 15 of the total 16 cases involved M&Ps, and so far this year involved 14 out of 18 negligent discharges.
Like many law enforcement agencies and police departments across the U.S. the LASD decided to adopt the M&P 9 because of it’s simple controls, light weight, low cost and striker-fired action. The M&P’s interchangeable backstrap system also accommodates a wider range of hand sizes which can promote shooter accuracy.
The lighter trigger pull is cited as contributing to many of the discharges that have led to injuries. The M&P trigger offers a constant 6- to 8-pound pull while the double-action trigger on the Beretta has a 10- to 12-pound pull followed by a much lighter 4-pound pull after the first shot.
Still, this means that some of the injuries were caused by users putting their finger on the trigger on the draw, a basic violation of gun safety. These types of discharges are realistically a result of poor gun handling skills and are not caused by the gun in any way.
The IG also highlighted the lack of manual safeties as a potential factor contributing to these discharges. While a manual safety would prevent a discharge caused by putting a finger on the trigger on the draw, it is still a bad practice and something that can be mitigated with more training.