LEO Quals Just Aren’t Enough – By Scott Reitz

We recently conducted training for a Police Department in Massachusetts, and as always I told them that one cannot know when or where shootings or major incidents will occur. This particular department has not had an officer involved shooting since they can remember. Shortly thereafter, the Boston bombing incident occurred, which resulted in one officer killed in an ensuing firefight.

The reason you train continuously is that one can never know when certain skills will be called into play. For police officers this subject has always perplexed me. The vast majority of police officers as individuals and police departments as entities, often view tactics and firearms training as an addendum item, if the subject is even addressed at all. The prevailing attitude of: “We qualify on a regular basis….” apparently is sufficient to cover any and all future incidents. Nothing could be further from the truth… far from it. There is nothing in a department’s history or an individual’s career more important or as life altering as a shooting.

Departments and their respective cities have been bankrupted by bad or marginal shootings. Careers have been lost as a result of the misapplication of deadly force. Naturally there is the personal life of the officer at stake as well.

If you understand nothing else then comprehend the fact that most standardized qualification courses of fire simply illustrate that you can repeat the process of something which you have done hundreds of times before. There is little decision making on your part. Everything is handed to you on a silver platter so to speak. Distances, times and sequential orders of fire are laid out in front of you accompanied by buzzers, horns or turning targets. There is no adaptive process required, no decision making skills employed and very little (if any at all) corrective procedures carried out for marginal shooters. If you do not qualify then try again until you do – even if this is by the slimmest margin possible. I cannot envision any profession of a critical nature which applies such marginal goals. (Imagine a surgeon just barely scrapping by on a board recertification and then opening you up.) I fully comprehend why qualifications courses of fire exist and the logistics behind a department’s sole reliance of this as a measure of competency. This may not however, suffice for deadly force application in field settings.

Training must transcend marginal standards. If this requires personal expense then so be it. A department may not fund personal training – but they will fund autopsies and burials. This may sound harsh and unsympathetic but it’s not. It’s frustrating. Departments, if they have a mind to, can find funding for additional training. This article will no doubt, fall on many deaf ears, but perhaps not on all.

We will be offering an Active Shooter/First Responders class for police and Active Shooter/Critical Response class for civilians in September. We have conducted a number of first responder classes for police in the past years. As events unfold there is a definite trend toward this evolution on behalf of suspects who target randomly selected targets in a very random manner. These scenarios are very fast and fluid and the response must be in kind, which is why we train in the manner in which we do.

Both of these classes will be taught by active duty law enforcement personnel who not only train for this – but respond to such events in the real world. In other words, first-hand knowledge which is the practical versus the theoretical which is impractical.

These classes put into play very unique and unusual skills sets and responses which are unique to active shooter scenarios. I have read through and observed some of the planning modules proposed by various entities in response to active shooters. Just about every one of these voluminous workbooks is unworkable in terms of real world timelines. If you have ever wondered why SWAT teams, fully dressed out, are often times seen milling about in front of news cameras posing in their balaclavas, then you know why. At that point it is pretty much a glorified crime scene and nothing more. The event has already come and gone and that is the long and short of it. There may be exceptions to this rule but they will be few and far between.

A side note: When I was growing up we did not have the incidents occurring that we do now. It was a different era in which people interacted with each other and not an electronic device. There seems to be a lot more mental illness which is acted out in a violent manner targeting individuals who have little or nothing to do with the individual’s actual issues. This is just an observation and nothing more. In the 50’s there were cowboys and Indians, in the 60’s there were hippies and flowers and free love, in the 70’s there were disco balls, big hair and some really, really bad fashion statements. All of this has changed. We may be electronically connected but we are not individually connected. I don’t know if there is an answer for all of this but I do miss the hippies, the bell bottoms and the seeming innocence of what we once had.

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5 Responses to LEO Quals Just Aren’t Enough – By Scott Reitz


    I was a student of uncle Scotty while he was still active in LAPD. I could not agree more with this articule. One must must keep their skills up even if it means having to pay for it out of your own pocket. One never knows when the day will come that you have to go to guns. God willing you’ll have the upper hand, because the training that you sought out will get you over the edge.

  2. Double D says:

    I have had this discussion numerous times in 13yrs. Actually I just had it again yesterday with some admins of another department. Though they all agreed…in the end budgets are tight and can only qualify once.80% of my training over the years has either been on my dime, my time or both. I don’t expect everyone to do it thought it would be great. In the end the majority these days are just bodies filling a position. I’m often called “Positive Peter” however it’s very obvious this is going to continue to go down hill…Especially when there’s 12yr olds sent by their parents (with no balls) to question officer’s parking. See recent video for more info on YouTube. Officer was wrong,. However the parents are even worse for sending a kid in their place

  3. Nathan Krogh says:

    I had the honor and privilege of being instructed by Scott Reitz in a low light pistol course that our department sponsored a couple of years ago. Being a SWAT operator as well as a firearms instructor for our agency I have had the privilege of attending many shooting schools hosted by many different instructors. Many of which are world class shooters. I have always taken something away from every class I have ever taken, but Scott brings another element to his training that has not yet been equaled in any other class. Through his personal experiences and vast knowledge of the subject. Scott not only trains you on the mechanics of gun fighting but he also instills upon you insight and preparation for the proper mindset and attitude that one needs to win. If you have never trained with Scott then do yourself a favor and do whatever it takes to attend one of his courses. Even if your department will not pay to send you, you owe it to yourself, the public you serve, your family

  4. J.P. says:

    I am lucky to work in a department that has individuals who are both motivated to provide advanced training and can communicate the need of such training to administration. Simple decision making drills using both live fire and simunition scenarios can go a long way without breaking the training budget. Some of the drills we use we first learned at ITTS. Thanks for the great training!

  5. Tom says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Scott’s assessment of “qualification.”

    For the record I’ve been privileged enough to take just one of Scott’s classes, Intermediate Handgun in 2008. (Want to take more) And also for the record I’m not a full time cop. I’m an auxiliary state trooper that works 3-5 days a month. For my paid job I’m an airline pilot but I can see the parallels in the training for both of these jobs.

    “Qualification” is for the benefit of lawyers and politicians. “Training is for you! At my airline we go to training twice a year. One of those is a LOFT check ride (for the FAA) that is of little use to us. That’s our “qualification”. We pass, great, we continue to earn a living! The other one is real training (that means to learn and not just pass) consisting of engine failures, hydraulic failures, explosive decompressions, fires and other massive system failures. In others words, something that might save my life as well as 250 passengers.

    During “qualification” with the highway patrol (once a year) I consistently shoot “distinguished” (Perfect) that’s 40 out of 40 from 1,3,7 and 15 yards from a static position. Got a badge to prove it. I’m proud of that but I know it’s not enough! Also once a year we go through a “stress course” where we find out that we’re not quite as good of a shot as we thought. Excellent training, but consists of 90 seconds per trooper, per year. This course gets the most complaints from the rank and file as difficult or unnecessary.

    Very few, if any officer involved shootings happen with someone saying, “Three shots, in five seconds and then holster.” That’s why I’m adamant about obtaining more training with classes that I have to pay for as well as free training offered by other LE organizations.

    The thing that frustrates me is that so many of my full time LEO friends and colleagues have the attitude of “I’m not going to do any training unless I’m being paid.” Or, “I qualify once a year, that’s all that’s required.” Or worse, “Nothing’s going to happen, why should I practice?”

    I try to get out at least once a month to a range where I can do tactical training (I.e, drawing, moving, reloading, multiple targets, knelling, prone, etc., etc, etc.) I’ve invited several of the young troopers that I work with to go with me–for free and none has any interest in shooting beyond the yearly qualification.

    Next month I have the opportunity to attend an intense multi-day shooting program that is completely paid for by a federal grant and even ammo is provided. Not one of my full time colleagues is the least bit interested in attending. I mentioned it to management and they’re not interested in considering additional training, I realize that we have budget issues, but this is free!

    Doing this job, even on a part time voluntary basis, I feel that I have an obligation to everyone (especially myself) to be as proficient as possible with firearms, DT and basic physical fitness, as well as other related subjects.

    And so on and so on. And please, don’t get me started on young LEOs situational awareness. Last time I was out we went to dinner on duty. 3 other troopers and myself. All great people but they spent the entire time, back to the door, heads down, texting. I kind of felt it was my obligation to sit on the other side of the table and face the door while eating as I really don’t have anything that important to text.

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