RAND Corporation Will Assess NYPD Firearms Training and Tactics and Firearms Discharge Review Procedures, and Examine Reflexive or 'Contagious' Shooting Issues

For Release

January 4, 2007

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced today that the RAND Corporation will undertake an objective, comprehensive assessment of the New York City Police Department's firearms training and firearms discharge review process.

The assessment will focus on:

  • Initial firearms training provided to new recruits in the Police Academy
  • In-service firearms training, including the annual qualification training for every officer
  • Tactical firearms training and specialized courses
  • Firearms Discharge Review Board functions and processes
  • The phenomenon of reflexive shooting, its prevalence and the effectiveness of methods to control it

“A police officer's split second decision to use deadly physical force has enormous consequences and is the weightiest responsibility conferred by law,” Commissioner Kelly said. “As a result, we invest substantial resources in firearms training for our officers. In conducting this review, RAND will examine the quality and completeness of our firearms training program and identify potential improvements in the design and delivery of the curriculum, the technology used, the frequency and duration of training sessions, the tactics and procedures on which the training is based and the Police Department's firearms discharge review process.”

“We chose RAND to do this study because of its 30-year track record in running one of the oldest and most respected police policy research programs in the world, and for its reputation for objectivity and quality,” Commissioner Kelly added. “RAND has helped police departments around the United States improve policies on the use of force, investigative procedures, police-community relations, manpower and training, and in many other areas.”

K. Jack Riley, Ph.D., Associate Director of the RAND Infrastructure, Safety and Environment Division and Acting Director of RAND Center on Quality Policing, said: “RAND will conduct a thorough, balanced and independent evaluation of the way New York City police officers are trained to use firearms and to evaluate how firearms discharges by officers are reviewed. We will identify problems and seek effective solutions that will help police officers improve their performance and better serve New Yorkers and visitors to the city from around the world.”

RAND's study team will collect information about similar firearms training in law enforcement agencies nationwide, will consult with recognized firearms training experts from around the country and will seek to identify best practices. In particular, the latest advances in computer simulation technology will be reviewed in order to identify systems that may improve officer responses in highly stressful situations and reduce the incidence of reflexive shooting.

The study will also examine the structure and process of the Department's current Firearms Discharge Review Board in order to help the Department incorporate the lessons learned from each firearms discharge incident into its training, policy and practice.

For almost 60 years, the RAND Corporation has addressed critical policy challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. RAND's rigorous analytic approach and exacting quality assurance processes have made the nonprofit research organization a trusted provider of objective and pragmatic perspectives.

As part of its study, which is expected to be completed this summer, RAND will convene a panel of recognized firearms training experts to identify best practices that police departments around the United States use when dealing with the discharge of firearms. RAND will also solicit insights on the phenomena of reflexive shooting, emotional contagion shooting, and other characteristics of firearms discharge incidents, including those that involve multiple officers or that occur in low-light situations.

RAND will also statistically evaluate available data on the circumstances of firearms discharge incidents. Discharge incidents will be examined to identify commonalities that may need to be integrated into classroom and simulation training. The characteristics of officers involved in discharge incidents will be examined for patterns in training, experience, supervision, and other factors that may help predict, and thus reduce, firearms discharges generally and inappropriate discharges in particular.

RAND's review of the new recruit and in-service firearms training will include classroom observations, analysis of written course materials, and an examination of the computer simulation tools used. In addition, RAND will review the available literature and the insights offered by experts and the statistical analysis to examine the phenomena of reflexive shooting, emotional contagion shooting, and related incident characteristics, as well as methods to prevent and control them. The examination will include analysis of the Police Department's firearms training in the academy, in-service training, and tactical and specialized training in the context of adult learning and the psychology of weapons discharge under extreme circumstances.

RAND will also examine how firearms training and firearms incident reviews are conducted in other law enforcement departments throughout the country. RAND will identify promising practices that might be appropriate for NYPD, including computer simulation techniques used in firearms training by police departments elsewhere and the military services.

The cost of the RAND study will be underwritten by the New York City Police Foundation. It will be conducted by experts in training systems, social and cognitive psychology, statistics and policing, including Dr. Riley and Bernard D. Rostker, PhD, who will head the study. See their biographies, below:

About the RAND Corporation

The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous.