Negligent Discharges By L.A. Deputies On The Rise, Officials Point to New Duty Gun

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Stats regarding negligent discharges. (Photo: LA Times).

Stats regarding negligent discharges. (Photo: LA Times).

The rate of negligent discharges among L.A. County sheriff’s deputies has more than doubled from 2012 to 2014, from 12 to 30 — and according to officials, the reason has to do with the lack of familiarity with the newly implemented Smith & Wesson M&P 9.

For nearly two decades the weapon of choice for L.A. County deputies has been the Beretta 92F, a proven weapon with a double action trigger pull of 12 to 15 pounds and a single action trigger pull of four pounds.

In recent years, however, many deputies have been switching over to the Smith & Wesson M&P 9, a striker fire pistol with a consistent trigger pull of only six to eight pounds, substantially less than its predecessor.

Many find the M&P easier to fire accurately, but it’s lack of physical safety and relatively light trigger pull means those Beretta-trained deputies who were told to keep their finger on the trigger (the old saying, “on target, on trigger”) while aiming are more likely to negligently fire their new weapons.

“The vast majority [of negligent discharges] were people trained on the Beretta,” said Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers in an interview with the LA Times. “There is a correlation, no doubt about it.”

The L.A. County sheriff’s office recognizes the need for increased training and now requires their deputies to qualify four times a year instead of three. They also mandate all deputies take a course designed to train away from the Beretta habits. Those deputies who have negligently discharged their weapons are typically required to repeat the training.

“We call them training scars,” said Rogers. “It’s muscle memory. And especially in stressful situations, people revert to their training.”

(This article was a submission by freelance writer Brent McCluskey)

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • DL May 5, 2017, 5:01 am

    The M&P suffers from the same disastrous design flaw as that other striker-fired, plastic junk gun, the Glock. It has no REAL, active (meaning manipulated by the shooter) safety feature. I’ve never understood how so many in law enforcement have been so stupid as to not see this terrible problem. It takes only ONE conscious or unconscious act to fire either of these idiotic guns: someone or something puts sufficient pressure on the trigger (which defeats that ridiculous little so-called “safety” on the Glock’s trigger). It requires THREE acts to fire a cocked and locked Colt 1911: proper grip; deactivate thumb safety; exert sufficient pressure on the trigger. GET PLASTIC GINS WITHOUT SAFETIES OUT OF L.E.

  • Mark November 4, 2016, 12:01 pm

    It’s funny that I’ve carried a (stock, factory, unaltered) Glock 30 with a chambered round for many years and never had an issue. I’m a civilian with some advanced training. The key is that I’m careful and pay attention to what I’m doing. I don’t do “tactical” reholsters …. I remove my head from my ass. I understand my limitations and compensate for them. I feel for anyone that has a ND but to blame a machine for your idiocy is ridiculous….

  • Steve June 22, 2015, 11:57 pm

    All of the above comments have some merit. I carry a 1911 style which i have two different models but i also have a glock. I am not a leo but learned to carry an unloaded weapon for a month as crazy as that sounds to some. Then i carried with an empty chamber hammer down for a while. All the while i was trying to train myself to carry as safely as i thought possible. Today i believe i carry safely and automatically know what has to be done with any weapon i carry including a knife or a Glock. Training s the key for me. With so many leos carrying Glocks i still believe they are also top weapons . Their add i believe says they have three internal safeties as long as your finger is off the trigger as it should be. If you catch yourself with finger on trigger you need more training. You can throw a Glock with one in the chamber and it will not go off. Many great guns out there today all of which you should train with.

  • BRASS June 22, 2015, 4:07 pm

    Training to keep your finger on the trigger is bad training, period. I don’t care if the gun is single action, double action, single/double action, striker fired, hammer fired or any other configuration, keeping ones finger off the trigger unless you’re going to pull it, is a cardinal rule.
    Those trained on the 1911 in condition one carry (cocked, locked with safety on) know to keep their finger off the trigger until ready to pull it, regardless of condition 0, 1 or anything else. Glock users know to keep their finger off the trigger, even fouble action revolver users are trained to keep their finger off the trigger until a target has been identified and the decision to fire is made.
    Outside of urban close combat where there are no known non-combatants, similar to Fallujah in ’04, I can’t think of too many situations that justify finger on trigger for civilian peace officers.

    • Me June 22, 2015, 10:02 pm

      Brass has it right, I think something most of these commentators are missing is the fact that this article is describing incidents where an officer is actually ‘finger on the trigger’ firing their weapon. Discussing manual safeties is a moot point since at the point one’s finger is on the trigger shoe any manual safety mechanisms should be OFF anyway. DA systems with long slow trigger pulls simply mask poor training by giving more resistance before the gun fires. Proper instruction and MANDATORY PRACTICE with any new weapon would be the prudent path. Keep your booger hook off the bang switch…

  • Brian June 22, 2015, 10:41 am

    I just recently shot with a few friends. I borrowed a friends gun. Doesn’t matter what kind. I came on target, put my finger on the trigger. My friend said, be aware, the trigger is — “BANG” — light. Although I was on target, it certainly went off before I intended. The point is, its not just training, its practice. I don’t really have a solution. Maybe switching service weapons isn’t such a good idea unless absolutely necessary. Maybe a period of – “Stop practicing with the old, and practice weekly with the new, for six months, before a switch.” Even trigger creep can be different between two of the same brand of guns.

  • Lee June 22, 2015, 10:38 am

    Statistics can be misinterpreted. The fact that negligent discharges are up may have absolutely nothing to do with the trigger pull weight. If that really is the problem, then the issue is with training. But having taken statistics in college, I know how numbers can lie and be used outside of the context which they originated.

    For instance, they could have pulled the per capa stat from the numbers. Not only taking into account for the growth of the department, but the growth of non patrol components who are now carrying firearms but are considered part of the department. Like the jailers at a new jail with concealed carry permits who never went thru police training, who are technically employed by the department, who had negligent discharges.

    Also it doesn’t take into account reporting. For instance policy for reporting negligent discharges could have changed. Before negligent discharges that happened in controlled environments such as on the firing line or at the range during the prior year didn’t go reported where as now they do.

    And another example could be a change in administrators. The year before or prior, there may have been an administrator who had an attitude to not report negligent discharges that really didn’t “need to be reported.” Where the new one is like, if someone farts, they need to report it!

    Just saying again, numbers in statistics have to be taken from within their context. Its usually never as simple as it appears to the laymen. Everyone has an opinion but no one has the facts.

  • petru sova June 22, 2015, 10:33 am

    All the training in the world does not make an unsafely designed firearm safe. People are human. They can suffer from fatigue, extreme panic in a perceived dangerous situation that may not be dangerous, they may be hiding a drug or alcohol problem, they may be taking prescription medication which slows down their thinking process and motor skills, they may be going through divorce or suffered the loss of a child in their personal lives. Any of this can cause a person to make a mistake and the use of a gun like the unsafe M&P makes it astronomically more likely an accident will happen.

    Switching over from the much safer Beretta 92 to a safety-less M&P simply showed the Department was going with an immerging unsafe handgun trend rather than use common sense and stay with a much more safely designed gun like the Beretta 92.

    The average gun owner is not very mechanically inclined. If they cannot see danger they assume it does not exist.

    HOW MANY POLICE CHIEFS WOULD ADOPT A MUTI-SHOT HAND GUN THAT HAND AN EXPOSED HAMMER AND NO MANUAL SAFTEY, TO BE CARRIED WIH THE HAMMER COCKED BACK. Remember this new gun would have no manual safety. ANSWER: NO POLICE CHIEF WOULD ISSUE SUCH A GUN AND NO OFFICER WOULD AGREE TO CARRY IT BUT THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE M&P WILL FIRE OFF JUST AS EASILY AS A SINGLE ACTION AUTOMATIC WITH \THE HAMMER COCKED BACK AND NO MANUAL SAFTEY. THINK ABOUT THIS.

    Such lunacy was actually tried by none other than John Browning himself in his original 1911 which had no manual safety but the military even back in 1911 said NO WAY MR. JOHN BROWNING, PUT A MANUAL SAFETY ON THE GUN BUT EVEN WHEN YOU DO OUR SOLDIERS WILL STILL BE REQUIRED TO CARRY IT HAMMER DOWN.

    The only way an M&P can be safely carried (just like a Glock) is with the chamber empty period, otherwise just too many accidental discharges result as found out by this police department. That is already their own historical fact and its not going to change no matter how much training is given because training does not make an unsafe design safe and human beings make mistakes and always will make mistakes.

  • William June 22, 2015, 9:30 am

    Wow! Looks like their LEO community is just as naive about firearms as the rest of the republic of Kalifornia. Absolute idiots! And I can call ’em that ’cause I am a LEO. If my organization had that kind of issue, they’d be an immediate house cleaning, to say the least!

  • Dave Hicks June 22, 2015, 9:26 am

    jstert , I agree, your comment is on target. Training is the key.

  • jstert June 22, 2015, 8:49 am

    some suggestions: maybe it is time to return to a decent 4″ 357/38 revolver as the initial duty sidearm? within an approved menu, why not let officers choose the sidearm that they are most comfortable/proficient with? with practice speedloaders are a fast reload. semiautos lend themselves to “spray and pray” in lesser trained hands. let officers graduate to a semiauto as they demonstrate more proficiency. the taxpayers should not cheap out: more funds for weapons proficiency pay; more paid range time for training; patrol cars should have both a shotgun and ar in the trunk; and there should be two officers sitting up front.

  • Dr Motown June 22, 2015, 8:01 am

    How would you like your cause of death to be labeled a “training scar” (ie: dead innocent citizen who was on the wrong end of poorly trained LEO)?

  • Pete June 22, 2015, 6:42 am

    Nothing new here. We all know how badly trained and indoctrinated the Police are into gun handling safety and marksmanship. They say that the lack of a safety is responsible, no, it is lack of proper training. After all, they were used to carrying the Beretta with the safety off and relied on the heavy DA trigger to keep them safe, or so the original article stated. Further the original article pointed out that 40% of police cadets failed marksmanship portion of their training with the DA/SA Beretta while only 20% failed with the M&P’s constant pull striker trigger. Looks like more stringent training is in order, either that or disarm the LA Sheriffs for the public’s safety (the latter is probably the wiser choice). Anyone remember the incident a few years ago when LA Sheriffs fired 120+ round at a suspect and only hit him 3 times, none seriously? They also managed to shoot at least one of their own with the Polish Firing Squad tactics they were using.

  • Jonathan Johnson June 22, 2015, 6:27 am

    John, way to jump on the bandwagon of bashing the police. The issue of training is a valid point, but your remark of the police “brandishing” is plain silly. Crooks do it for a completely different reason than our cops do. The intention of punking an innocent victim with a gun for his or her money is no where near the same as pointing a gun at a bad guy.

  • Mark G June 22, 2015, 5:56 am

    We manufacture safeties for Glocks for this exact scenario. We will be contacting the department.

  • gene June 19, 2015, 8:46 am

    Keep your finger out of trigger guard until you have no choice but to use lethal force. It is called training and more training.

  • Mike DeRusha June 18, 2015, 1:06 pm

    Any openly carried duty weapon should have a manual safety. There’s a good reason the 1911, PPK, 92’s, M16, etc have manual safeties. They are a duty weapon carried openly by someone who should be doing everything in a deliberate manner. If working a safety is too burdensome, you may want to consider a job more suited to you. BUT, if an officer takes the time to attain and demonstrate competence with a different weapon they should carry whatever they want.
    I would totally trust a cop willing to go on duty with a .380 walther. Because they probably know their abilities and are the best judge of a situation they find themselves in. Which is also my argument when someone says I should’t be allowed a gun just because they want everyone weak and “equal”.

    • Pete June 22, 2015, 6:48 am

      1) PPKs do not have a safety, they have a decocker.

      2) As to needing a manual safety on an openly carried duty weapon, no real need if the rank and file is properly trained. Just look at Glocks, they have no manual safety and somehow a majority of police forces have managed open carry with them for 30+ years with no major issues. Nope, this is a training issue, not a gun issue. Too easy to blame the bow, not the Indian in this case. Your view as to having a need for manual safeties is dated and obsolete.

      • Dave Hicks June 22, 2015, 9:21 am

        Pete= Check The double action Walther PPK’s out they have a firing pin block a decocker and a loaded round indicator.

      • Bob Johnson June 22, 2015, 12:32 pm

        Pete, your first responce was a wrong as your second. There have more AD’s with Glocks than with any other service weapon. This is endemic with striker fired, no physical safety pistols. Glocks and the “get on the bandwagon” M&P’s are dangerous guns, especially when they have light trigger pulls or have had a trigger “job” done on them. Another poster mentioned, would you carry a 1911 or other pistol locked and cock woithout a safety on? No you wouldn’r, but that is exactly what carrying a striker fired pistol with no safety is.

  • John Plough June 18, 2015, 2:44 am

    Incidentally,
    pointing your gun at somebody to intimidate them is known as “Brandishing” and it is against the law in CA. Cops do it all the time, Placing your finger on the trigger while brandishing is pretty stupid, whether its a 92F or anything else. As usual, police are above the law.

    • Mike DeRusha June 18, 2015, 1:08 pm

      Another excuse to blame the gun and not the judgement of the people making the decisions. What reason is there for no safety on an openly carried duty weapon? Not to mention what you said.
      I mean, duh? Right?

      • Eric X Equis June 22, 2015, 6:56 am

        Ummm… the Beretta M92 HAS a manual safety. This is an issue of poor training and poor weapon discipline. It’s what you would expect from an anti-gun, “guns are scary” state.

        • steve June 23, 2015, 12:46 am

          Ummm…did you read the article? they are talking about rise in NDs after switching to M&Ps FROM beretta 92s. the M&Ps don’t have manual safeties. that is the point of the article.

    • Mike June 23, 2015, 12:35 pm

      Pointing a gun at someone is actually Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Lifting your shirt to show someone you have a gun in your waist is Brandishing. Cops suck, get a real job.

      • Mike July 1, 2015, 1:05 am

        You are a moron at best. Please actually learn the law and what it is you are talking about before posting again.
        Thank you.

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