Gun-mounted flashlights spark concerns in wake of accidental Denver police shootings
Denver's police chief said Thursday he has ordered extra training and a review of department policies after the second accidental shooting by an officer this month and the fifth in a little over a year.
Police are still investigating the latest shooting Sunday night, but at least two of the accidental shootings have been blamed on gun-mounted tactical flashlights. Such lights have also been cited in other accidental police shootings across the country, including one that killed a man in Texas.The SureFire lights with the push-button switch under the trigger guard are being blamed for the negligent discharges. This issue first came to public light (so to speak) last year, I believe, from a Force Science Institute report:
One possibility, Lewinski asserts, is that under stress, when the exertion of physical pressure tends to become intensified, an officer pressing his middle finger against the flashlight switch pad will produce a sympathetic reaction in the index finger. If that finger happens to be inside the trigger guard and on the pistol’s trigger, the reaction may be forceful enough to cause an unintentional discharge.
Ideally, of course, the index finger would be outside the guard and on the frame until a conscious decision to shoot has been made. But research studies have convincingly shown that, despite training to the contrary, officers in high-stress situations tend to move the finger onto the trigger, often without even being aware they have done so.My good friend Paul Markel wrote an excellent piece on Officer.com addressing the Force Science Institute report:
In the current case we have a report that says an inanimate object, tactical light, was to blame for a negligent shooting. Not the agency’s failure to train or the officer’s inability to operate the equipment properly. We could strip away every weapon mounted light from every cop gun in the nation and by next week some officer somewhere would have a negligent discharge.
Training, education, and practice are not luxuries for surgeons, heavy-equipment operators, or airline pilots. But for some reason far too many law enforcement agencies still view training as a luxury or a simple line item to be cut from a tight budget. Sadly I don’t see this changing any time soon. It’s easy to blame inanimate objects for failures, they can’t defend themselves.As a civilian — a really big distinction, I think! — I leave my weapons-mounted lights with rocker switches rather than changing out to pressure switches, not because I'm worried about a sympathetic motor response, which I think we're all familiar with, but the fact that i've trained to use the rocker switch and I'm comfortable with it. The weapons-mounted light on the handgun is always secondary to a handheld light, that is, the weapons-mounted light isn't used for searching except in the most extreme circumstances (loss of the primary, for resample). I believe we modeled a technique for using a weapons-mounted light for searching on THE BEST DEFENSE a couple of seasons ago.
On the handgun, the weapons-mounted light comes into play after the threat has been found and identified.
On the long gun, it's a different story. There have been occasions where things have gone bump in the night very loudly, and before heading out to check on said bump I shifted from the defensive handgun to the AR. In that case, I turned the weapons-mounted light on and left it on; the AR was essentially held at low ready, using the edges of the light beam to search.
How many of you guys are using pressure switches vs rockers on weapons-mountd lights????