The Yale University Police Department recently changed its policy concerning officers who fail to qualify with their duty weapon, and it has the rank and file seeing red. The current policy change states that officers who fail to qualify within 30 working days, having already failed twice, may be dismissed. Administrators claim the change is necessary to ensure professional readiness. Members of the police union claim it is retaliation due to poor press following a previous high profile arrest and more than 70 off duty officers protested outside police headquarters to let their leaders know how they feel.
After reading several articles describing the policy change and outlining the Union’s opposition, there appears to be more to the story than simply a policy change. First, the Union takes issue with the fact that the previous policy had no time limit or qualification attempts associated outlines. Furthermore, officers who did fail were not subject to any specific discipline, especially not termination. Finally, the argument is made that it is unreasonable to expect officers to pass the firearms test without the opportunity to practice, referring to the fact that the normally used range is under renovation. While I understand the Union’s desire to represent its members, I have to say these arguments simply do not hold water.
As a long time law enforcement officer and firearms instructor, I take great pride in being a professional. I also think that it is imperative that police officers conduct themselves as professionals, otherwise elected officials and the public will think of what we do as just another job – not a profession. As professionals, there are certain standards which need to be met in order to remain employed. Doctors, lawyers and teachers all have professional standards, and so do police officers, including the ability to routinely qualify with their duty weapon. But, let’s look at the Union’s arguments one by one.
- Limitations – Honestly, I think most officers would be happy to have unlimited opportunities to qualify without negative consequences. While it may be a shock to go from no accountability to possible termination, I think you will find it in line with what most other departments nationwide expect from their own force.
- Termination – No, I have not seen the official policy and do not have personal knowledge of its specific details. However, having a statement that termination is possible is not unusual. I do not believe that every situation should be handled exactly the same, nor do I believe that every officer who fails to qualify should be terminated. But by having that statement included in the policy the administration has protected its right to terminate IF the officer’s past record dictates it. Again, this is standard policy nationwide, and I hope that is the intent of those who developed this policy
- Practice – The inability to practice is an excuse I have heard nearly every time a shooter has failed to qualify. My personal belief is this is BS. Range qualification is not a pop quiz. Although you may not know the exact time and date of your next qualification, you do know generally when it will occur. Practicing only just prior to the training is unlikely to improve your skills, this requires routine training throughout the year. Plus, there are plenty of dry fire drills which can be conducted just about anywhere as long as you have a save place and cleared weapon.
The bottom line is law enforcement is a profession which requires members to be proficient with their firearms. While anyone can have a bad day if you are unable to qualify in three attempts then maybe you are in the wrong profession. If you can’t understand that administrators are responsible for developing policies which not only protect the department as a whole but also maintain the professional standards the public expects then you may also be in the wrong profession.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.