Archive for December, 2007

When police shoot – Duck!

December 17, 2007

Here is an interesting article in the New York Times about how effective police are when they use their firearms.

New York City police statistics show that simply hitting a target, let alone hitting it in a specific spot, is a difficult challenge. In 2006, in cases where police officers intentionally fired a gun at a person, they discharged 364 bullets and hit their target 103 times, for a hit rate of 28.3 percent, according to the department’s Firearms Discharge Report. The police shot and killed 13 people last year.

In 2005, officers fired 472 times in the same circumstances, hitting their mark 82 times, for a 17.4 percent hit rate. They shot and killed nine people that year.

In all shootings — including those against people, animals and in suicides and other situations — New York City officers achieved a 34 percent accuracy rate (182 out of 540), and a 43 percent accuracy rate when the target ranged from zero to six feet away. Nearly half the shots they fired last year were within that distance.

In Los Angeles, where there are far fewer shots discharged, the police fired 67 times in 2006 and had 27 hits, a 40 percent hit rate, which, while better than New York’s, still shows that they miss targets more often they hit them.

Police officials say that the figures don’t necessarily show that bad marksmanship is the problem

Bad marksmanship? Police officials and law enforcement experts say no, contending that the number of misses underscores the tense and unpredictable nature of these situations. For example, a 43 percent hit rate for shots fired from zero to six feet might seem low, but at that range it is very likely that something has already gone wrong: perhaps an officer got surprised, or had no cover, or was wrestling with the suspect.

“When you factor in all of the other elements that are involved in shooting at an adversary, that’s a high hit rate,” said Raymond W. Kelly, the New York police commissioner. “The adrenaline flow, the movement of the target, the movement of the shooter, the officer, the lighting conditions, the weather … I think it is a high rate when you consider all of the variables.”

Well, maybe. But it doesn’t look like a very good percentage to me – especially the figures from zero to 6 feet.


Britain will ban Samurai swords

December 15, 2007

The British government is about to make the country safe (once again) by banning Samurai swords. Of course not real Samurai swords, just the cheap imitations that are being used in violent attacks.

According to Home Office estimates, there have been at least 80 serious crimes involving the swords in England and Wales over the last four years.

One MP recently warned that they were being used by criminal gangs as the preferred weapon of choice after guns.

The government says that collectors and martial arts enthusiasts who own real Samurai swords will be exempt from the legislation. No doubt there will be trained police officers who will be able to tell a cheap imitation from a real sword. Or – using normal practices will they just bust the citizen they find with a real sword, confiscate the sword and let the courts sort it out.

That is the way it works, isn’t it?


And criminals are using them as a weapon of choice? Hell, I thought all criminal violence in Britain was past history once they banned most firearms. I’m appalled.

One can only hope that no one in ‘Jolly Old’ never goes on a killing rampage with a cricket bat. British culture will never recover.

In all fairness, this is the country that in the recent past had a serious call to ban ‘pointy’ knives. Which makes understanding the mindset much easier.

The hypocrisy of gun control

December 12, 2007

It’s stories such as this that make me increasingly cynical about political statements made by police associations and especially those from Police Chiefs, wherever they may be located.

Charles Ramsey, while Chief of Police for Washington DC, was a staunch supporter of the DC handgun ban. Now, no longer DC’s police chief and on his way to Philadelphia where citizens have the right to concealed carry, Ramsey has decided that DC’s ban is not (never has been?) necessary.

Philly gun owners will be excited to know that Ramsey does support registration as a way to control handguns as well as believing that ‘more dangerous’ guns should be banned. But the actual ban in DC that he strongly defended is no longer his issue. Which must be a bit annoying to the new DC police chief whose job is to continue to support the ban and tell the media how the world will come to an end if the Supreme Court validates the constitutional right of DC residents to own handguns.

[Off the subject, someone needs to explain to me what makes a gun ‘more dangerous’. Unfortunately too often the common take is simply the gun’s appearance.

The story in Canada is that when the federal bureaucrats came to decide what guns would be listed as prohibited under their new Firearms Act they simply went to a book like the Gun Digest and picked out those that they thought people shouldn’t own – mostly military style semi-auto rifles (don’t get me started on 4 inch barrel handguns). ]

But back to Chief Ramsey and police chiefs and other gun control spokespersons in general.

I have only had direct knowledge of a couple of police chiefs in my life, and never thought that they were the brightest puppies in the pack. Much of the media pronouncements I have heard from various chiefs over the years has often made me wonder if they were in fact the norm. They may (or may not) be competent at running their own departments but they should be kept far away from policy making for a city and certainly for a country as they continually attempt to do in Canada.

As noted by others, if you had police making the rules, every citizen would have their fingerprint and DNA samples on file, we would all be carrying official ID and police would have the right to stop you on the street for an identification check at their pleasure. And don’t think for a minute that there aren’t a lot of police out there right now who would not see that as unreasonable, all in the name of crime control of course.

Regardless, it was a surprise, that Julian Fantino when he was Toronto’s police chief spoke out against the value of the long-gun registry in Canada. It is rare to see someone in that position take a stance other than the official one of his political organization – in this case the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs.

But it does make me wonder how many of the high profile Canadian anti-gun people, such as the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, activist Wendy Cuckier, Ontario Premier McGuinty and Toronto Mayor Miller to name just a few, really believe that they can reduce crime and violence through the registration of firearms or the more radical step of banning them completely. I think more likely they all have their own agendas and guns, gun ownership and gun owners are just convenient whipping boys that enable them to get media attention and to sound as though they are proposing real solutions when in actuality they have no real solutions to give.

GI Joe transferred to Belgium

December 8, 2007

An article by Vin Suprynowicz on Hollywood’s corruption of the GI Joe image. It’s obviously not popular in Hollywood for GI Joe to be an American hero.

Also some history as to whom GI Joe really is.

Thanks to Clayton Cramer for this pointer.

Gun Free Zones

December 8, 2007

In the wake of the Omaha shooting, John Lott has written an interesting article on gun free zones. He also provides some interesting links.

Final thoughts on Robert Dziekanski

December 7, 2007

As the media blitz dies down, I doubt if we will ever know all of the facts as to where most of the blame lies in Robert D Dziekanski’s death at the Vancouver airport.

From the beginning, I thought that once the investigation got underway we would find that much of the blame would get passed back to Customs. Dziekanski spent at least nine hours in that area and if he had passed through there into the main area in the normal amount of time there would never have been a confrontation.

But when you read the details of his time in the customs area and what transpired there the view gets a little fuzzy. He did get processed and he did have an opportunity while being processed to talk with someone who had at least a working knowledge of the Polish language. But once processed, he went back to the baggage area inside the secure section. Not only did he have a language problem he was also a very inexperienced flyer who had no knowledge of how the traffic flow went.

There have been comments made in the media that the Airport ‘lost’ Dziekanski, but in the time he was in the Customs area, 4,000 other travelers passed through. One person doesn’t even register.

The Airport management has said that they will add more surveillance cameras etc., but technology will not solve the problem. You need more intelligent communications between the various organizations and that did seem to be lacking, or perhaps more to the point, a lack of responsibility to follow through on any communications received. Not an uncommon problem in large organizations: no-one takes ownership of the problem.

Which of course brings us back to the taser issue.

There seems to be no question that the RCMP officers were far too hasty with their use of the Taser gun. There appeared to be no attempt to make any verbal contact with Dziekanski. They went with what appears to be the new police philosophy when dealing with disturbances: Taser first and defend your actions afterward. In this case, they added to the problems by piling on in the aftermath – which also seems to becoming a standard technique. Whether Dziekanski’s death was caused by the multiple shocks the RCMP officers gave him or by the physical trauma is something that hopefully will be determined by the medical examiners.

Regardless, the tasering and death of Robert Dziekanski is only one incident in many that have been recorded across North America and the use of the Taser is very much being questioned by the media and politicians and is being vigorously defended by police spokespersons.


I have always thought that that the use of the Taser by police had great promise for certain situations where, with no other option, they would have to resort to the use of deadly force. Unfortunately the Taser seems to have become the police go-to tool for any and every situation short of using deadly force. In fact in reading of some of the incidents I get the distinct impression that it is being used as a punishment tool.

It’s not that the Taser is a bad tool for police work, it’s just that it is being used far to casually by police and in many cases its use would appear to border on abuse.

Death by Taser?

December 1, 2007

When tasers first became available for police use they seemed to be a reasonable tool for police enforcement. It was assumed (I think) that they would be used as an alternative to an officer using deadly force. If that was the case, recent history has shown that police officers now seem inclined to use the taser with very little provocation.

The past few weeks – since the death of polish traveller Robert Dziekanski after being tasered by RCMP officers – the media around the world has focused on the taser’s use in law enforcement.

But Dziekanski is not the first to die after being tasered by police.

A November 18th, 2007 article on reporting on the death of a tasered man in Maryland notes that Amnesty International claims that since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the U.S. after being subdued with a stun gun.

An Amnesty International report issued on November 30, 2004 noted that in the previous 15 months 9 Canadians had died after being tasered by police.


And since Dziekanski’s death two more people in Canada have died after being tasered by police. One in a Nova Scotia jail and the other, Robert Knipstrom, in Vancouver.

In Knipstrom’s case he was also pepper sprayed and struck with batons by officers in an effort to control him. Dziekanski was tasered a number of times and had police officers kneeling on his back to hold him down.

This November in Kelowna, a 68 year old stroke survivor was tasered twice by RCMP officers over a a disputed double parking incident, all the while being told by the man’s wife of his condition. Fortunately, he survived the attack. It is however n example of how indiscriminately police have begun to use the tool.

There is no question in my mind that the taser can be a useful tool in enforcement. But it would appear that it is being used far too casually by police officers.

In spite of the problems that have shown up with taser usage, the Vancouver Police Department has decided to go ahead with the purchase of 70 more taser guns, more than doubling the number that they now have available for their officers, It will be interesting to see how the taser incidents increase once there are 70 more officers in the field carrying the units.