An article in The Forensic Examiner last year reported on the latest of a series of three intensive studies the FBI has done on cop-killers.
According to the article, in the most recent study the FBI researchers looked in-depth at 40 incidents selected from a pool of more than 800 cases. The researchers interviewed survivors (officers and perpetrators), reviewed records, and visited crime scenes.
Of the 43 perpetrators involved, 13 admitted gang affiliation/membership and involvement in drug trafficking.
Some of the findings.
1. The offenders were experienced shooters:
Most of the offenders who shot an officer had prior experience firing handguns. They typically began carrying a gun when they were between 9 and 12 years old. By the time they were 17, the vast majority of them were carrying all of the time. Nearly half of the offenders were involved in shootings (as victim and/or offender) prior to their assault on an officer. Ten offenders (all of whom were considered “street combat veterans” and were from inner city, drug-trafficking neighborhoods) had been involved in five or more shootings.
2. The offenders had more experience using deadly force than the officers.
Of note, the offenders had more experience using deadly force on the street than did their victim-officers. Only 8 of 50 victim-officers had participated in a prior shooting (one officer had been involved in 2 prior incidents and another in 3), with 7 of those 8 having killed a perpetrator.
3. The offenders practiced shooting more than the officers.
Nearly 40% of the suspect-offenders had some type of formal training with firearms, primarily from the military. More than 80% of the offenders included in the study practiced shooting on a regular basis, averaging 23 intentional practice sessions per year. It is significant to note that the offenders actually practiced with their firearms more than the victim-officers did. The officers averaged only 14 hours of sidearm training and 2.5 qualifications per year. Only 6 of the 50 victim-officers practiced regularly, beyond that required by their department; most of this was in the context of competitive shooting.
4. The offenders were “surprisingly coldblooded.”
As described by the researchers, the offenders were “surprisingly cold-blooded,” turning instantly to deadly violence. On the contrary, the victim-officers were unwilling to use deadly force as long as they thought they had another option. Thirty-six of the 50 officers had been in situations where “deadly force” would have been an appropriate and legitimate response, “but chose not to shoot.” On average, those 36 officers had been in four such prior incidents. Unlike the officers, the offenders acted from a “shoot or be shot” mentality, with absolutely no hesitation about pulling the trigger. They operated under the presumption that if they hesitated, they would be killed.