Real Time: A ‘Dirty Little Secret’ About Cops…

Do police officers receive enough training, specifically as it relates to firearms?

Georgetown Law Professor Rosa Brooks does not believe they do. 

“Here’s a dirty little secret about cops, they don’t really get much training on how to use their weapons,” said Brooks, who recently appeared on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.    

“When I went through the police academy, we had two weeks of firearms training,” she continued.  “First week was just in the classroom.  Second week about three hours a day on the range and then you qualify and you’re done.”

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Brooks, who holds degrees from Harvard (BA), Oxford (MST), and Yale (JD), is also a reserve police officer with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.  

She chronicled her experiences in law enforcement in a new book called, “Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City.”  

The problem isn’t just with the initial training cops receive but with the limited ongoing education and instruction throughout their time on the force. 

“Twice a year you re-qualify. You watch a few PowerPoints slides as a refresher and you’re done,” explains Brooks.

The result, she insists, is a woefully undertrained department.

“We have a lot of people walking around with lethal weapons who don’t really know what they’re doing,” she said.

Many of you are active LEOs or former LEOs. Interested to hear your perspective on this issue.

Do police officers receive enough firearms training? Do you feel as though you received enough training during your time on the force? If not, what should the training requirements be for new recruits? What about requalification for those on duty? What should that look like?

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About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Rlee8541 May 7, 2021, 12:20 pm

    I was a LEO for 28 years. Range instructor/armour. I shot personally 1,000 rounds a month. I tried to get the useless chief to up my budget so I could get all 50 Officers to qualify each and every month with a minimum 500 rounds. That’s just their sidearm. I had them literally running and gunning to put pressure on them not just basic marksman skills. Used police vehicles that included motor Officers and their bikes in the training, real world training. Of course it worked for about 5 years then came time for the budget cuts. Mine was first. The useless chief said because the department never gets into shootings is why he cut it. This is why police trade INS of sidearms only have pistol wear from the holster. But the officers seen the importance and coughed up their own funds to keep the training going. Luckily they did after I retired an officer was ambushed on a traffic stop and every bit of the training kicked in and he killed the blm a hole along I-44 last spring. The Officer’s body armor saved his life. Now the chief has been fired and the department is back to being more proficient with their firearms than most police tact teams in the area. Any police department that doesn’t make firearms training a huge part of the budget is only screwing themselves especially now with this Country showing more and more assaults on our law enforcement officers. These men and women willing to put on that uniform everyday and risk everything deserve all we can support them with.

  • Dusty April 26, 2021, 2:36 pm

    Well- where should I start? Obviously the woman considers herself an expert… She is a reserve officer right?
    I only worked over 30 years as a cop- 95% in a patrol capacity- officer and sergeant. A year as a trainer. Our reserves were generally trained via a Reserve Academy. 50% of the hours required by fully sworn personnel. Not allowed to work solo (some agencies do allow that however.) Reserves were required to train and work at least one day per month. How many arrests has the woman made? On average, I made more than one arrest per shift. Lots of officers made many more.

    Trolls and misinformation notwithstanding- Agencies try very hard to hire qualified personnel. The liability for not doing so is huge. Hiring the best potential candidates is timing consuming, and expensive. It is also rife with potential liabilities. It is exhausting work for Human Resource personnel and Background investigators.
    Basic training to become a full time sworn officer or deputy is most often conducted by a State funded Criminal Justice Training Commission or equivalent. Re: firearms training- They do the best they can with limited time and budget. Many recruits have never even fired a handgun. Trainers have to instill 0-to competent in a week or two. ‘Defensive’ tactics, driving an emergency vehicle, reports, laws, court decisions, crisis intervention, first aid et al consumes most of the other time. (There is unfortunately an increasing amount of social engineering nonsense as well.)
    My State’s Basic academy went from 440 hours n mid ’80’s- to 720 in 2010. My agency had additional agency specific post Basic training. Forms, procedures and protocol differ between agencies. A field training period starts, in which practical application of everything starts. It is usually 3-4 months long. It now takes over 9 months before an officer can work alone. They are STILL probationary, and can be fired for cause or failure to perform at any time for over a year after hire.
    Every officer would like to get more training. Shoot more, drive more, engage in mock scenes, become more competent at ‘defensive’ tactics etc. Sadly there is no time and money. What money there is is often squandered- Early on I/we recognized, the City would recognize some “problem”, and the remedy would devolve to “hey let’s train the police some more” in flavor-of-the-day psycho-drivel. The social engineers would feel good, take credit, and the City could say OK look what we accomplished. (A lot of training now is on-line unfortunately- see all of the above.) Cops end up training themselves- by experience, communication, and effective debriefings (not the ones with all the hand-wringing and shoulda-woulda-coulda histrionics.)
    Another thing often overlooked is that Departments require certain things of officers they might NOT train for… Advanced EMT skills are nice, but very expensive. They are also not needed for many first responder roles. Firefighters have enormously better training in that area. They are not entering a crime scene until it is safe to do so- the cops do that- yep, ‘ready or not, you’re up brothers and sisters’…
    Cops come to recognize, that firearms are last resort early on. Pistols have obvious performance limitations. (It is really difficult to handcuff someone with a pistol in your hand…) Educating officers in the Use of Force Continuum is difficult. Tinkering by dilettantes from DOJ or some reserve officer with (too much?) education, and too little real experience (some Chiefs qualify here as well unfortunately) is NOT helpful. It is distracting and gets cops and citizens hurt, sued or dead.
    ‘Defensive’ tactics are an area that gets a lot of press these days. Here’s my real experience and take- I have some training in martial arts (pre-hire.) Achieving and retaining effective competence is very time consuming, and difficult. You can get hurt practicing any of the disciplines (Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Aikido, Krav Maga- you name it, you burn you own sick time.) In reality, size matters. More officers matter. It may not look elegant, but it works. Fewer people get hurt.
    Instilling false confidence by training an officer via lighted, work-out clothed, on mats (no inconvenient furniture or traffic in the way) at 1/4 speed against fellow officers you do not want to injure- is near criminal. The reality strikes home rapidly- arresting some convicted felon in the dark, maybe rain-soaked or just sweaty, clothed in your blue(?) uniform, carrying a parasitic load of perhaps 30+ pounds (belt, gear, vest), on dirt, mud or asphalt, cars or furniture added, at real speed- is NOT ‘defensive’. Your opponent does not care if you’re injured. It is a fight involving a gun (yours)- and you can not afford to lose- for you own survival and that of citizens and other officers. The win/loss HAS to have a “0” in the L column. Even great fighters lose- but the consequences for cops are a little more dear.
    Last- For the the troll who will call my brothers and sisters in law enforcement lowlifes? Please do so to my face should we ever meet. In the mean time, I truly hope some else is available to buy you a slap.

  • Ed April 24, 2021, 1:08 pm

    I would say many do not spend enough time training, I have bought a few police trade-in pistols, all of which were barely if ever used. Brand new bores, only wear evident is where it may rub inside the holster. From my experience, there are many civilians who spend a lot more time practicing and likely better prepared. Considering that civilians have to pay for their ammo, that’s sad.

  • Jeffery Hamilton April 23, 2021, 5:12 pm

    It’s really stunning how differently departments approach this training. My agency has us at the range quarterly, with qualifications in the morning and advanced training in the afternoon, usually incorporating actual combat drills and first-aid/trauma/downed officer. Powerpoint for firearms? Breathtakingly poor. That doesn’t even rise to the level of basic marksmanship. Gads…

  • Doug Folsom April 23, 2021, 1:58 pm

    This is exactly why if I am ever cornered or am in trouble with an aggressor, when I dial 911, I am going to ask for a psychologist or a counselor.

  • Kenneth Holloway April 23, 2021, 1:15 pm

    While I am not a LEO I spent my childhood years, in the 50’s and 60’s, hanging out with members of the Cleveland, OH, police force. My father was on the force and in the summers I would accompany him to work and spend my days at the YMCA or the Public Library next door to the First Precinct station. Consequently I am familiar with the training given to LEO’s in that time period, and in my opinion, government has failed the citizens of this country by cutting necessities for unproven crackpot schemes. For example in that time period police officers were required to requalify once per month on the range in the Old Cleveland Armory. Any officer could go to the range during operating hours and practice, using free ammunition provided by the city (these were reloads that were manufactured by the range officers when no one was actively using the range). Now a days I understand that such practices have fallen by the wayside due to “budget considerations”. For that read that the politicians prefer to spend money to “bribe” people with social programs not to commit crimes rather then spend money to have a highly trained, competent police force. We as a nation need to wake up and vote for competent politicians, who have the welfare of the country and it’s citizens as their first priority, into office at every level from local to federal.

  • Dav April 23, 2021, 11:55 am

    Look at Special Operators to figure out what it takes to handle high stress situations consistently. When they aren’t on mission, they are constantly either working out, training basics or training to the next mission. You probably can’t afford to do the same exact ratios with cops, but if you are expecting them to operate in high stress situations, Every cop that goes out in the wild and responds to calls and pulls people over needs to be trained consistently and constantly. At least 30% of their time and it should be paid for. The desk jockeys don’t need the same training regimine and even a detective can have reduce, but every beat cop and uniformed officer that pulls people over needs that training. Suck it up buttercup and pay for it or abolish the role of police of interacting with the populace.

  • George April 23, 2021, 10:47 am

    I’m a cop. Have been for 10 years. I’m also a firearms instructor with almost 30 years experience. I have shot competitively for over 40 years with rifle, shotgun and pistol. I’d agree with the lady 100%. Cops do not get enough training on firearms period. I’m also a Taser and scenario based training instructor and we as a society are selling cops short with not supporting more training that puts them under stress, forcing them to build a memory bank of defined responses to situations. Giving cops the mental tools to allow them to make good decisions under stress is essential. Not one champion competition shooter ignores the mental training needed to succeed but we’re doing that to cops and expect them to succeed.

  • Andy Buckmichael April 23, 2021, 10:29 am

    Cops, and their families, are some of the lowest people on the face of the earth.

    • Frank April 23, 2021, 11:18 am

      Sweeping generalizations like that serve only to illustrate your pathetically low IQ. Regardless of how much keyboard bravado you possess, you may someday find yourself in need of help from those “lowest people on the earth”. Good luck with that.

    • SeppW April 25, 2021, 8:35 am

      How do you know this to be the case? There are lowlifes in all professions, for that matter the human race. Law Enforcement is not the exception. Most departments, agencies, etc, if not all, screen candidates pretty thoroughly before acceptance. A small percentage of “not qualified” gets by. There is great responsibility to be issued a badge and firearm and then go into the public to enforce the law.

    • Big Al 45 April 26, 2021, 9:07 am

      And you are at the bottom of that pile, eh?
      What a jackass you are.

  • Mike April 23, 2021, 10:18 am

    Firearms training is not the issue today. As a whole, law enforcement seems to be connecting with their targets just fine. Hard to miss between 0 and 25 feet. Its everything left of the bang that needs the attention. You win every gunfight you don’t have.

  • Jerry Jones April 23, 2021, 10:13 am

    So You Want to Poo-Poo what she is saying…. Ask any regular duty LEO in the Country what his training ammunition budget is for the year….. For Most Municipalities they don’t exist.

  • Jay Hildebrand April 23, 2021, 10:10 am

    Generally, they do not. I attended academy/training as military police, academies in GA, CA, and then the federal level; from 1988 to 2007. I would categorically say that there is not enough emphasis placed on basic skills; honing of those skills and upkeep, and constant training and refresher for RoE/shoot no shoot scenarios. Even on the federal level, after the 2 weeks of decent range time and about 2500-3000 rounds placed through our duty weapon, training was relegated mostly to the 50 rounds/year for AWQ. Use of outside issued ammo was discouraged and use of duty weapon for additional personally-funded training was also discouraged. Typically, anyone who tried to excel or take firearm handling to another level was labeled a gun-nut or a “Tackleberry”. More scenario based training is needed and a constant drilling on the Use of Force continuum, weapons handling, and IPC skills are critical.

  • Rand April 23, 2021, 9:49 am

    Maybe if we spent some of the funds training kids in school about how to act respectful and the results of being a criminal the need for cops to negatively react with the public would be reduced. Kinda like teaching kids to look both ways before stepping off the curb into a crosswalk reduces pedestrian deaths.

    • BP April 23, 2021, 11:18 am

      Good comment. I would add to that, if those in the process of being arrested FOLLOWED directions…there would be no violence.

  • Rick April 23, 2021, 9:30 am

    All I can say is there never such a thing as to much training. You have to get it on your own, because budgets are always getting cut especially in today’s world and training cost money. Real good training cost even more money. How many small organizations can afford the real training both mental and physical to be proficient. Not just one day or week a year.

  • Frank April 23, 2021, 9:28 am

    None of us should be quick to make such generalizations about LE officers. While there is ALWAYS room for improvement, some officers already receive excellent training. My basic training exceeded 10 weeks and was pretty intense way back in 1992. We also received specialized training after basic and then refresher courses each year. That same basic training now takes 14-16 weeks.

    If you’re looking for someone /something to “blame”, it’s as simple as acknowledging all levels of government spend far to much money on entitlement programs and other “social justice” nonsense. Too little is left therefore, (in many circumstances) to adequately train and equip the thin, blue line. This is exacerbated in small municipalities.

    There will always be some “bad apples” in law enforcement just as there will always be some among firearm owners. Neither group should be painted with the same broad brush.

  • Chief April 23, 2021, 9:27 am

    I would completely agree with the fact that they don’t get enough training. As an avid competitive shooter, it’s always funny to squad with the random cop who shows up and hasn’t done much, if any, competitive shooting. They almost always wind up at the bottom of the heap, being decimated by guys in their 60s with bad knees who can barely run around through the stages. Their egos are so completely deflated, instead of coming back and getting better, they usually never show their faces again. 

    Not to mention, I tried to help out some little goon cop in Prosper Texas become a better shooter, and the poor little guy couldn’t even figure out how to zero his own optic. AND that was AFTER he had just made the SWAT team. Pretty sad.

  • SeppW April 23, 2021, 8:43 am

    All those degrees and not very bright. Being proficient with a firearm is not the same as knowing how to wield it, i.e. when is it necessary to draw down on someone. Engaging targets on a range is not the same in real world scenarios because: Targets don’t shoot back, the pucker factor, and a thorough understanding of rules of engagement.

    Times are a changin’

  • William Davis April 23, 2021, 5:53 am

    Without reading her book I would agree that firearms training and re-qual’s were inadequate and a necessary evil for my PD. Any officer wishing to practice on a Department range with Department ammo was out of luck. We qualified once a year. Those who could not pass the 30 round course of fire had to attend a day long refresher course. Myself and a small number of officers found training opportunities in the private sector.

  • automan April 22, 2021, 11:23 am

    I can say as a Marine I didn’t receive adequate firearms practice. As a civilian concealed carry permit holder I make sure I’m shooting at least once a month, sometimes more than once a month. You have to take the time to become skilled and shooting proficient. Shooting is a perishable skill. Anyone who chooses to use a firearm for any purpose needs to ensure they are proficient in its use.

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