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Are You a 'Designated' Shooter?

A designated-shooter policy limits reflex fire, ensuring greater safety for officers and the public.

January 26, 2011  |  by Nick Jacobellis - Also by this author

Initiating a designated-shooter policy is designed to limit the number of rounds fired by multiple law enforcement officers at one time at the same subject.

When you initiate a designated-shooter policy, you assign the immediate responsibility to engage a potentially violent subject to a primary and secondary officer with a designated backup team of officers standing by in case the first two officers are unable to contain the situation.

Here's how the designated-shooter policy limits the number of rounds fired. In the presence of the violent armed EDP, an armed domestic violence offender or by any armed criminal, each officer present would technically be able to easily articulate that they were justified to open fire because they felt an imminent threat.

Under a designated-shooter policy, a primary officer, secondary backup officer and backup team are assigned to perform specific duties to prevent every cop present from opening fire at the same subject unless it's absolutely necessary.

Instead of having a perpetrator get shot at with 50 or 60 rounds from the firearms of a dozen or more LEOs, the designated shooter would open fire along with the designated secondary or backup shooter also opening fire if the engaged subject continued to pose a threat after being shot at by the primary designated shooter.

If the primary and secondary shooters stop the threat, then everyone else involved in this enforcement action will stand down. Should the armed individual or violent subject continue to engage the police after being engaged by the primary and secondary designated shooters, then the designated backup team would be cleared to open fire.

When it comes to using authorized deadly force, a law enforcement agency can still look bad in the eyes of the community, even when multiple officers can articulate that they felt that their life was in danger and opened fire. Officers often will not realize that every other officer or agent present felt the same way and opened fire for the same reason.

Using some type of designated shooter policy streamlines the police response to potential encounters, where the use of authorized deadly force is likely by assigning specific personnel to be responsible to do the shooting when and if they are justified to use such force. When executed correctly, a well rehearsed designated shooter policy can protect life and property while insuring officer safety as well.

My only concern with the designated shooter policy is what happens when the primary and secondary designated shooters fail to hit their target and the armed gunman or multiple active shooters return fire before the backup team of designated shooters can engage.

When shots are fired in a real-life situation, reaction times slow down and tunnel vision can also set in and impede the ability of law enforcement officers to see events clearly and react as quickly as they might do at the firing range.

Other than these concerns, I feel the designated-shooter policy should be implemented once law enforcement agencies train for the application of this policy and an evaluation team of firearms experts as well as police psychologists confirm that this type of response proves to have an incredibly high success rate.

Related:

Reflex Fire

Tags: Deadly Force, Use-of-Force Policies, Reflex Fire


Comments (12)

Displaying 1 - 12 of 12

B. Chin @ 1/27/2011 3:30 PM

I do not agree with this policy at all. The major problem that you are creating is training officers to not respond properly to a deadly force situation. I fully understand that shooting a suspect 50-60 times doesn't make good press, but what are you training people to do? What if there is an officer that is never the designated shooter, and every time he's in a deadly force situation, he never fires? Then when he is alone and needs to use deadly forace, he has been trained not to respond properly in a deadly force situation, and we then we are breaking out the Class "A" for another funeral, that we helped cause.

S Eberhardt @ 1/28/2011 7:56 AM

I agree 100% with B.Chin. This is a dangerous precedent to proceed with. It would involve training officers to NOT respond properly or to rely on someone else to take the shot. I believe Police Funerals would skyrocket if policies such as this were implemented

Ed @ 1/28/2011 8:51 AM

Horrifically bad idea that should never have seen the light of day. Why would you want to train officers to not respond to deadly threats? Take care of the threat immediately - there is no time to dither or ponder about designations or assignments while rounds are inbound.

Rummy @ 1/28/2011 9:11 AM

Why is the opinion of the press/public even coming into this? There are those out there who will contend that any departmental shooting is unjustified, regardless of the circumstances. Even if it would be a good PR tool, we have to resist making use of force (especially deadly force) policy based on politics. It makes sense to designate duties for, say, the officer who has the patrol rifle. That's only because he's got the firepower and the range to deal with certain threats more effectively. Same for K-9 and other specialized units; they can do things a straight patrol officer isn't equipped or trained to do. That doesn't mean we dictate the duties of a straight patrol officer. There's enough micromanagement already. What's next? Designated OC spray deployment officer? Designated ASP swinger?

B. Imota @ 1/29/2011 6:39 PM

I think the points made previous are valid, but you may be missing the point. Having designated shooter would be for specific situations. A deadly force situation that officers arrived to and can deal with long before SWAT has a chance to respond, not one where they have to act immediately upon arriving on scene. If officers cannot tell the differentiate between the need for immediate use of deadly force because or one where they should wait for a designated shooter, then those officers need to get some further training and should not be on the street. I have trained numerous new and experienced officers who have no business shooting anything further than the reach of their own arm. Having designated shooters limits the chance of things like stray shots and sympathetic fire. Think of the Designated Shooter as something similar to a contact team in an active shooter situation, one where someone who is better trained at taking distance shots, specifically with a patrol rifle. Just some food for thought.

VitaFidens @ 1/30/2011 1:02 PM

This is a bad idea all the way around. In my opinion, it's a bad idea primarily because of the bad and very dangerous precedent such a policy would set. Whoever came up with this idea is piggybacking off of the US Army's Designated Marksman program which is a recent adaptation the Army has brought about in order to fill the gap between the standard infantryman and a fully qualified sniper. DMs are typically the guys who qualify as experts and exhibit superior skill and knowledge with the rifle, but who have not been to sniper school. The difference between the intelligently utilized Army DM program and this misguided idea for law enforcement is simple. In the Army program, the DM IS NOT left to be the sole shooter in the fight. He's always going to have at the very least a fireteam to support him, who’ll be sending rounds downrange at the enemy while he picks his targets. No soldier is asked to put their lives solely in the hands of a skilled marksman for their safety; each soldier is still able to engage the enemy on his own, thereby increasing the safety of the whole. This idea for LE is weak in that it places other officers at risk while asking them to rely solely on the marksmanship abilities of the one, or maybe two designated marksmen. Let us not forget that statistically speaking, history has shown us that we can drop the percentage of hits scored on a qualification course by roughly 80% once the stress of an OIS takes effect on the officers involved. So, statistically speaking, an officer that routinely scores 100% on quals can expect a 20% score when it really counts. I don’t know about you, but if I’m one of the officers who has to rely on the DM by some misguided departmental operations order, I’m not liking those odds very much. I just don’t think the DM program has a place on our streets. The risk far outweighs the reward in my opinion. I’d rather get blasted by the local commie rag than see a partner hurt or killed due to a misguided policy decision.

Skipp Homschek @ 1/31/2011 7:52 PM

It seems to me that departments have their hands tied. We all want and need more training but that cost money. Training is like air, you need it to stay alive. You need it to keep everyone alive. Take money away from anything but training and the tools that we need to train.you need to train like your fighting for your life every time that you train and not look at it like it's just more "POST HOURS". I'm new at these but as a Marine we trained not just kill but not to be killed. If your not here to train hard then just go ahead a lay down a pretend to be dead because you will be or you will be the cause of one of my men to die. We are a team, don't let this go on and say nothing.

Chris Jacobellis @ 4/14/2011 2:44 PM

Before I began let me qualify myself to everyone who has given this article a life of its own. My name is Chris and I’m the brother of this articles author. I was a NYCPD officer for 23 years on the 2315X0750, 1st plt. ALL 23 years on the street both in the “bag “as well as in various stages of “perp wear”. I carried two guns, a 2” six shot S&W on my ankle with two extra speed loaders (not because I’m a nut but because I believe in Murphy’s Law and I don’t rely on anything made by man). My service weapon was a Glock 19 with two extra mags. I also carried a S&W mag because that’s the sidearm my partner carried, God forbid I had to use his weapon or he had a malfunction, we would “be prepared” (like good little boy scouts). I have been in shooting situations (thank God not with my weapons) way to many times (even the very day I retired). In my capacity as a conditions officer, my partner and I were “encouraged” to make two observation gun collars a month. So my sidearm was in my hand many times a night making me no stranger to stressful armed confrontations. I have buried far too many friends and know what it’s like to go home and see “cop” blood on your boots and hide it from your wife. This brings me to why I’m jumping to my brother’s defense. His being my brother is usually enough reason for me, that along with the fact that he is a decorated LE officer himself and my inspiration when I wore the uniform. But I still stand on the thin blue line and defend any and all officers (even when they might be wrong, not that he is). As I sit here and type my retort I can think of 5 separate times where my patrol supervisor designated me and my partner as the primary and secondary shooters. All 5 of these incidents were in controlled situations. We had requested ESU and they were “responding with a delay” words you never want to hear on a midnight shift in a stairwell 25 stories up. The supervisors were acting properly every time. ..CONTINUED

Chris Jacobellis @ 4/14/2011 2:47 PM

First of all, we were the best shots. They knew that we trained extensively and relentlessly. They knew that we had the most time on the street; experience is everything in a stressful situation. But mostly it made sense. Cement walls and steel stairs make for wonderful rick-a-shays. Those hurt to, just like rounds that hit you head on. My point is that this was done in a CONTROLED situation NOT IN THE STREET during a foot pursuit, car stop, vertical chase up exterior fire escape stairs ETC….you get the point. We used to have a joke, “where is the safest place to be when a NYPD cop pulls out his gun?.....New Jersey!” I can assure you that I am neither A LIBERAL, nor do I subscribe to “PC”ness . I’m life time NRA and a licensed firearms instructor……..and a Boy Scout master. Nobody hates to agree with most every NYPD department policy more than me but they got it right when it comes to use of force and the policy of the “Designated shooter” This has saved lives and body parts and will continue to do so. I just wish that some more cops and supervisors would get their faces out of the sports page and learn some tactics and adhere to this policy more often.

To Mr. Chin. First of all if a police officer must rely on someone to tell him when to shoot or not to shoot then he should apply for a house mouse job and stay inside where it is safe and he could be told when he should get the boss coffee and when not to. COMMON SENCE and PROPER TRAINNING is the key to going home in one piece. Being a designated shooter doesn’t preclude any other officer on the scene from engaging a perp with his firearm it only provides the senior officer or the ranking supervisor with a cretin amount of control in a violent situation (ever hear of FRIENDLY fire). I have seen enough dead perps in the street to know that one, two or three well placed shots do just as good a job as 50- 60 rounds.

Continued

Chris Jacobellis @ 4/14/2011 2:48 PM

To Mr. Eberhardt, This is not a new policy in NYC, I don't know when it came about but I do know that it was around when I joined the NYPD in 1986. This policy has absolutely nothing with training officers NOT to shoot. To the contrary, it teaches "fire control and discipline. When you have a primary shooter you also have a secondary shooter. To subscribe to your reasoning, God forbid the designated shooter was incapacitated...does that mean everyone else goes’ home? NO! That means everyone else gets a free day at the range.

Hay ED, This policy was written for CONTROLED situations. Not street encounters. The policy only addresses situation where an armed threat is barricaded or has placed himself in a situation where the only way out is past the good guys. This policy is used while you await ESU or SWAT whichever your department uses. Let the "boys with the toys" light him up.

To Vita Finders....WHAT are talking about? When you have time to think, you have time to plan. When you have no time to think you react based on training and experience. This policy ONLY addresses one of those points. It has nothing to do with any armed forces policies nor was it in response to any PUBLIC relations. Officer safety is paramount and bullets fired by cops or perps don't care where or within whom they end up!

To Skipp Homschek. Well said, any STREET cop that relies only on his departments training and just that, is foolish. If you are lucky enough to work with a partner you should be training with him/her once a month. Not just at a controlled range but find some land in the middle of nowhere and "blast away”, Run through live fire training. Shoot with your first responder gear on (gas mask and bunker gear), Train in the rain, snow and when it's as hot as hell. Do "fire and movement" drills. Train as you will fight and you will fight as you trained. ..continued

Chris Jacobellis @ 4/14/2011 2:48 PM

Bring a barbeque grill and make a camping trip out of it for your entire squad. I did this and have been doing it for the last 23 years. I still go and work with the rookies who don't know which end the bullet comes out of thanks to the NYPD firearms training policies. Not the fine staff at Rodman’s Neck in the Bronx NY who would LOVE to PROPERLY train those officers. But who are constrained by Bloomberg’s “dept.” policies

Nick Jacobellis @ 6/7/2011 9:22 AM

While I appreciate my brother Chris coming to my defense I would like to speak for myself and explain why I wrote this particular blog about the NYPD Designated Shooter Policy. First, I am not the NYPD Police Commissioner and never served in that capacity. As a result, I did not invent the Designated Shooter Policy but I wish I did. One problem with writing blogs is that you do not have a great deal of time to explain every detail to the enth degree. As a retired law enforcement officer turned free lance writer I take full responsibility for not decribing this policy better, for had I done so you would realize that the Designated Shooter Policy is meant to be initiated under CONTROLLED CIRCUMSTANCES. Nothing in this policy prevents a police officer from blasting away at a perp when they are justified under the law to open fire and use deadly force unless the situation is so contained that a SUPERIOR OFFICER has the time to establish a containment scenario until ESU or SWAT arrives. If the armed individual poses a threat before ESU (Emergency Service Unit in NYC) arrives those police officers who are selected to be a Designated Shooter are responsible to address any threat that takes place. If at any time the Designated Shooters fail to stop the threat or are unable to do so their backup officers are fully authorized to use deadly force as required.

I know from first hand experience that New York City is a very politically correct place to be a cop of any kind but trust me when I tell you that no one but no one is placed in any jeaporday or at risk when the Designated Shooter policy is properly applied as CONTAINMENT secenario. I also have to be the bearer of bad news and remind all of my fellow officers out there that some LEOs can't hit a bull in the ass with a snow shovel let alone do better than barely qualify at the range. If you are a superior officer and you had to deal with a containment scenarion where it may be necesary at some point

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