NYPD recruits will receive guns that are easier to fire under a new initiative to improve accuracy, the Daily News has learned.
The move, which one civil rights lawyer said “doesn’t make sense” and could lead to more police killings, means that new cops will need to apply less pressure to the trigger.
The NYPD insists data are on its side.
Last year, officers shot 256 bullets in 26 incidents with suspects. But cops’ missed their target in half of those incidents, according to NYPD data. When cops don’t hit their target, they are likely to fire more shots, police said.
Now, after field tests at the NYPD firing range at Rodman’s Neck in the Bronx, police believe that officers fire more accurately with a 9mm handgun that has a trigger pull — meaning the pressure required to fire a bullet — of five pounds.
For more than 100 years, the NYPD has used firearms with 12-pound trigger pulls.
The 457 recruits who were tested, most of whom never fired a weapon before, had an average score of 93.7 with the lesser pull and 88.7 with the 12-pound pull, police said.
Accuracy tests showed that 129 officers already working the streets also scored better with the lighter pull.
But the NYPD chose to only issue the easier-to-fire guns to new recruits, said Insp. Marlon Larin, who runs the department’s Firearms & Tactics Section.
“We’re building (recruits) up from scratch, so to speak,” Larin said. “As we’re training them we’re assessing them and we can also follow them throughout their careers. We didn’t want to go so large. We know this is a very sensitive topic and we wanted to phase it in slowly.”
The first class of recruits that will be issued the new guns graduates in October.
Lawyer Randolph McLaughlin, who represented the family of Mohamed Bah, a mentally ill Harlem man shot dead in his apartment in 2012, said the NYPD is making a mistake.
“It’s making the weapon more deadly for more people. And I think at a time when we’re questioning the discharging of weapons by police, when we’re providing officers non-lethal force devices, such as Tasers, why would you want to make it easier for cops to shoot people?” he asked. “That just doesn’t make any sense — you’re putting more people at risk.”
Josmar Trujillo, an activist and writer, echoed McLaughlin.
“There is no protester or reform advocate in the country asking police for more efficient weaponry,” Trujillo said.
Larin insists that greater accuracy means fewer shots fired and less chance the wrong person gets hit.
The department, founded 176 years ago, used revolvers with 12-pound pulls until the 1990s, when then-Commissioner Raymond Kelly began issuing 9mm handguns to cops. The manufacturer-recommended setting for the new pistols was a five-pound pull — but the NYPD kept the trigger pull at 12 pounds.
Critics worried that police, now armed with a weapon that could fire 16 bullets instead of the six bullets in a revolver, would in fact fire more shots.
The department also worried about the logistics of transitioning the entire force to a gun with a lighter pull, according to current top spokesman, Deputy Commissioner John Miller. That concern also applied to the new initiative, he said.
“You can’t naturally unteach years of habit,” he said.
A number of other departments have in recent years moved to handguns with a lighter trigger pull, including the Suffolk County Police Department, whose acting commissioner, Stuart Cameron, said accuracy has improved with no increase in accidental discharges.
Rocco Parascandola covers the NYPD and criminal justice issues for the New York Daily News, where he has been Police Bureau Chief since 2009. He has won various journalism awards in his 32-year career, which includes stints at New York Newsday and the New York Post. He is the author of “Gunz and God: The Life of an NYPD Undercover.”
Source: Rocco Parascandola, New York Daily News