Friday, May 9, 2008

In the Spring a Young Man’s Fancy Lightly Turns to Thoughts of Guns

It's springtime in Washington, the warm nights are filled with the sounds of 9mm 'DC hummingbirds,' and the Metropolitan Police have announced that they intend to equip every patrol car with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

The Washington Post story on this development was very short and subdued (D.C. to Arm Patrol Officers With Assault Rifles), not at all what I would have expected. The Washington Times story (D.C. to Arm Police with Assault Rifles), however, had full details and provided some background on the troubles the D.C. police have already experienced using the firearms they have now.

From the Washington Times story:

Concerns about D.C. officers using excessive force surfaced after the city lowered standards in police recruiting in 1989 and 1990 ...... On April 7 [2008], the department qualified to end a seven-year, voluntary Justice Department oversight of incidents in which officers used their weapons or other forms of force in the line of duty ...... City officers fired 219 rounds last year, up from 64 in 2006. The department is now investigating the conduct of two officers who this month were exonerated by federal investigators in the fatal shooting of 14-year-old DeOnte Rawlings, whom they suspected in the theft of a mini-bike.

The Times also had this critical comment from the Baltimore PD, which is not following the nationwide trend to arm officers with rifles instead of the shotguns that have traditionally been the patrol car back-up weapon:

A spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department said only SWAT officers have assault rifles because the department has seen mostly handguns used in crime. "It's a specialized weapon for specialized units," said Officer Troy Harris, a Baltimore police spokesman.

I'll leave aside the question of whether it makes sense for an urban police department to equip every officer with a rifle, and just note that the last time the DC police adopted a new firearm - the Glock pistol - they became a menace to themselves, each other, and society at large.

Poorly trained and trigger-happy was a bad combination for everybody but the plaintiff's lawyers back in the 1990s when the DC police led the nation in shootings, both intentional and accidental. In the first ten years after adopting the Glock, DC cops had more than 120 negligent discharges of the handgun.

I'm thinking of starting an office pool: whoever guesses the date of the first mistaken firing of a Washington Metropolitan Police AR-15 takes the whole pot. That should fill the sports gap nicely. Basketball season has ended, and I'm pretty sure we'll see the first accidental firing before baseball season gets going.

1 comment:

Consul-At-Arms said...

Just when the active duty military is going away from the M-16 (an AR-15 is simply a civilianized version of the M-16, one which is _not_ capable of fully-automatic fire) to a shorter, carbine version more appropriate to urban settings and mounted/dismounted vehicle operations.