Take a moment to read the following article from the Philadelphia Daily News.
Philly cop says worn-out holster led to shooting
A woman grabbed the officer’s gun and shot him in the foot
Philadelphia Daily News
PHILADELPHIA — An Amtrak police officer has sued the national rail corporation, claiming it’s liable for an incident in which a woman was able to grab his gun and shoot him in the foot.
James Bullard, 65, a 29-year veteran of the Amtrak force, was working at 30th Street Station on March 9, 2008, when he got in line at McDonald’s to buy a cop of coffee, according to the suit, filed in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia.
Police and witnesses interviewed by the Daily News at the time of the incident said a 30-year-old woman, who appeared to be homeless, began arguing with McDonald’s employees about 11 a.m. when they refused to refill her coffee.
When Bullard tried to remove the woman from the restaurant, she grabbed his gun from his holster and shot him in the left foot.
He was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was listed that day in stable condition.
The woman, who was not identified in the suit, or by police in prior news stories, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and related offenses.
At the time, police said Bullard had suffered from broken bones in his foot.
The suit does not detail Bullard’s injuries, except to say they were “severe,” “permanent” and “disabling” and that he suffered “great physical pain and mental distress.”
In the suit, Bullard claims he was forced to work with a worn, torn and defective gun holster and that Amtrak failed to provide a new holster when he requested one.
He is seeking damages under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.
Calls to both Bullard and his attorney, Steven Lafferty, were not immediately returned yesterday.
Here are some questions that jump out at me when I read the article:
- What training did the officer have in weapon retention? If the officer had not been trained in weapon retention then this incident is partly a result of a training gap. Over the last 30 years we have seen significant numbers of officers disarmed and killed with their own weapons. Weapon retention training must be a standard part of every law enforcement training program. If your agency does not address weapon retention then take steps to gain the skill and have it implemented in your agency.
- If the officer had weapon retention training when was the last time it was reviewed during inservice training and, perhaps more importantly, when was the last time he trained on his own to ensure his response to a gun grab was habitual? Just because something is covered in training does not make it a habitual response in the field. You need to commit to train on our own. It is your life that is at stake.
- What does the officer mean by “forced to work with a worn, torn and defective holster”? What did the officer do to ensure he was issued a new holster? To me ‘forced’ means he took steps to document the poor condition of his holster starting some time ago. When the agency refused to issue a new holster he documented that and took the issue to his association or union in an attempt to rectify this safety concern. When that was unsuccessful and the agency still refused to issue a new holster the officer documented that and then went out and purchased a new holster (the same as the issue one to ensure consistency in his draw stroke and standardization of uniform) and started to wear that holster to work as well as train with the new holster to ensure he was proficient with the new stiffer holster. At some point after doing this the officer was threatened by a supervisor that if he did not remove the new, safer holster and return to using the old, worn, and unsafe one he would be immediately suspended without pay and immediately fired. In the face of that threat the officer felt he had no choice as his family could not live without his pay check and he chose to document this and return to wearing the old holster.
I admit I do not know the answer to any of these questions as I am not personally familiar with the officer or his agency’s training. I believe that agencies should replace worn equipment for their officers. I also believe that officers have a responsibility to maintain their equipment and take all steps necessary to get worn or damaged equipment replaced immediately.
If for some reason your agency will not replace a critical piece of equipment like a holster then spend the money out of pocket to buy it and claim it on your income tax as a job related expense. For those that will argue this point and adamantly state that it is the agency’s responsibility let me ask you this:
- Would you rather be recovering from this officer’s injuries or have spent $200.00 on a new holster?
- Would you rather have your career ended by a homeless person in a fast food restaurant who disarmed and shot you, or have spent $200.00 on a new holster and trained in weapon retention?
- If this officer had been killed as a result of the disarming do you think his family would rather be out $200.00 from his savings or be attending this officers funeral?
Food for thought.