Contagious Cop Shooting
Yesterday I wrote about Sean Bell, the 23 year old who was gunned down Saturday night in a hail of gunfire by New York cops, hours before his Sunday wedding.
Today's New York Times has another article on the shooting, with one officer suggesting the phenomenon of "contagious shooting" took over:
The whole thing most likely took less than a minute. The officer who fired 31 times could have done so in fewer than 20 seconds, with the act of reloading taking less than one second, Mr. Cerar said. The 49 shots that followed the undercover detective’s first may have been contagious shooting, said one former police official who insisted on anonymity because the investigation is continuing.
“He shoots, and you shoot, and the assumption is he has a good reason for shooting. You saw it in Diallo. You see it in a lot of shootings,” the official said. “You just chime in. I don’t mean the term loosely. But you see your partner, and your reflexes take over.”
Turns out, this is not a novel theory.
The phenomenon of officers’ firing dozens of shots at a time dates back in part to 1993 and the department’s switch from six-shot .38-caliber revolvers, cumbersome to reload, to semiautomatic pistols that hold 15 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. The change, like any of its magnitude, followed years of studies and differences of opinion, and finally came into effect after the 1986 murder of a police officer, Scott Gadell, who was reloading his six-shooter when he was fatally shot.
Maybe it's not a good idea for police weapons to be able to fire so many rounds.
Commissioner Kelly, during his first term in the office, in 1992 and 1993, ordered a switch to semiautomatics, but ordered the clips modified to hold only 10 rounds. That modification was later undone, prompting him, after Mr. Diallo’s shooting six years later, to speculate in a New York Times op-ed article, “Now may be the time to re-impose it and to intensify training that teaches police officers to hold their fire until they know why they are shooting.”
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