The Chief
January 12, 2007

Kelly Calls in Outside Firm

Review NYPD Gun Training

By REUVEN BLAU

In response to the police shooting in Queens that killed Sean Bell and injured two of his friends six weeks ago, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly Jan. 4 announced that the department had hired an independent firm with expertise in police practices to review the NYPD's firearms training and tactics.

"Questions have arisen as to the quality and effectiveness of our training," Mr. Kelly told reporters at a press conference. "We thought it would be appropriate to bring in a recognized world-renowned nongovernment organization to take a look at all of our firearms training."

He emphasized, however, that the six-month independent review will not investigate the Nov. 25 shooting, which occurred as a group of unarmed men attending a bachelor party for Mr. Bell exited the Kalua Cabaret in Jamaica.

Jury Assembled

Mr. Kelly's announcement came two days after a grand jury was empaneled in Queens Supreme Court to examine the incident. It will determine if the five officers involved in the shooting broke any laws when they fired a barrage of 50 bullets at Mr. Bell after he allegedly struck an undercover officer with his car. It will likely take several weeks to hear testimony and look at evidence, insiders said.

As for the firearms review, the assessment by the RAND Corporation will focus on five areas: initial firearms training provided to new recruits; in-service firearms instruction, including the annual qualification training for every officer; tactical firearms training and specialized courses; Firearms Discharge Review Board functions and processes; and the occurrence of reflexive shooting, which apparently happened in the Queens shooting. RAND will consult with experts in the field to identify best practices, Mr. Kelly said. "They will also look at the latest technology to improve officer responses in highly stressful situations to reduce the incidents of reflexive, or so-called contagious shooting," he added.

Studied L.A.P.D.

K. Jack Riley, the acting director of the RAND Center on Quality Policing, noted that the company has worked to examine the instruction in the Los Angeles Police Department, reviewed racial profiling among Oakland police officers, and evaluated ways to help recruitment and retentions among cops in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

For the NYPD, RAND's study team will collect information about similar firearms training in law-enforcement agencies across the country. The firm will then seek to identify best training, including the latest advances in computer simulation technology designed to help improve officer responses in highly stressful situations and reduce the incidences of reflexive shooting.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association welcomed the review, but once again stressed that the city needed to improve staffing levels and officer pay as well.

"While we believe New York City police officers are among the most restrained in the world in the use of deadly physical force, we always welcome additional or improved training," said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch in a statement. "We would encourage a similar review of both precinct staffing levels, which have fallen dangerously low, and police pay levels which have caused a serious recruiting and retention problem."