It happens across the country each day — a law enforcement officer receives gunfire from a suspect. On Tuesday, it left a New York police officer dead.
When a Bartow County Sheriff’s Office deputy was shot at with a high-caliber rifle earlier this year, the department adapted training to prepare others for the same scenario.
Although deputies often train using patrol vehicles as cover, Tuesday’s “one man patrol” exercise at the firing range in Emerson focused on deputies remaining low to the ground and operating a firearm using their non-dominant hand.
“Basically, today’s training was all about using the patrol car as cover,” BCSO Capt. Mike Shinall said. “When they arrive on scene in the training scenario, they encounter multiple threats and use their vehicle from four points to engage the threat. The second part is the same situation — they encounter multiple threats — but they lose the function of their primary weapon hand. From this point on, all they can use is their support hand.”
Maneuvering around the vehicle at a crawl, deputies fired from various prone positions using both their service weapons and .223 caliber rifles.
In the portion of training where deputies were asked to complete the same tasks without the use of their dominant hand, creativity emerged. Some reloaded using their leg, others a single hand, a shoe, a vehicle.
Shinall urged the officers to find the position that felt most natural and practice using that stance.
When it came to using the rifle with one hand, some used the vehicle for support, with one deputy saying the most difficult part of using the rifle with the support hand was remembering which eye to use to sight in the target.
Shinall said physical training is the best preparation an officer can have because, in a real-life scenario, an officer will revert to that training.
When asked Tuesday what was going through his mind during the shooting incident earlier this year, the deputy involved said he recalled very little. “[You] just fall back on your training.”
Just as Tuesday’s training evolved out the deputy’s experience, the department also addressed the issue of officers’ guns being placed in the trunk following the same case.
“At the time, he did not have enough time to get into the trunk to get his rifle,” Shinall said, “but now we are moving the rifles inside the vehicle. We received a grant to purchase the long-gun carries, or gun racks.
“If there is a problem out there, we try to address it.”