Firearms training for law enforcement demands more than mastering the fundamentals of marksmanship. It also must include a clearly defined set of priorities to guide police officers in the use of firearms.
In the New York State Police Firearms Training Program, these priorities are: Safety first, Accuracy second and Speed last.
State Police Firearms Training is a continuing process that begins with a 90-hour course in the Basic School and continues throughout one's career with semi-annual, in-service Field Firearms Training sessions of five hours each.
With guidance from trained firearms instructors, each trooper works to develop and maintain an appropriate level of "combat accuracy" under realistic time-constrained conditions; that is, the ability to perform quickly and efficiently without sacrificing safety.
Basic School Firearms Training
Basic School Firearms Training covers not only qualification with pistol and shotgun, but also tactical firearms training, the use of deadly force, which includes training on FATS (Firearms Training System), chemical agent training and practical "demonstrations" of the effects of oleoresin capsicum (OC or "pepper spray").
FATS is a state of the art training system which stimulates real life situations in a controlled atmosphere. This tool was designed to aid in decision-making skills, judgmental use of force and marksmanship training.
Basic School qualification requires the recruit to score 84% or higher on each of three consecutive runs of the pistol qualification course. Pistol qualification requires a minimum proficiency score of 84%, at specified distances and within established time limits; shotgun qualification requires 80% proficiency. In addition, all Basic School trainees must pass a comprehensive written examination with a minimum score of 80%.
Emphasis also is placed on "tactical" training, in which recruits are confronted with realistic situations specifically designed to reflect actual deadly force incidents troopers have faced in the line of duty. This begins even before the three-in-a-row standard has been achieved on the static range; once it is achieved, the qualification course is not revisited until semi-annual, in-service training in the field.
In-Service Field Firearms Training
In-service Field Firearms Training requires ongoing semi-annual qualification with pistol and shotgun. It also includes an array of ever-changing tactical courses. This training is decentralized and occurs locally in troops. All troopers must attend each training session.
The State Police train its own firearms instructors in a state-certified 63-hour Firearms Instructor Development Course. The minimum marksmanship standards for this course are increased to 92% for the pistol and 90% for the shotgun and written exam. Instructors also must complete an additional Instructor Development Course for General Police Topics.