Better Trained: Cop killers or the police officers they kill?

By Ken Hanson

In the first part of this series we examined how those who dismiss criminals as being stupid are in fact themselves acting stupid. In another example of how dangerous it can be to underestimate the two-legged predators who walk among us, the FBI has recently finished a five year study of cop killers and the shootouts that took the officer’s life. While I have only seen a summary and not the whole report from the FBI, The Force Science Institute has published a very good synopsis of the report.

Some of the findings reinforce the deadly misconceptions the public has about criminals. In these attacks, the criminal was found to practice more often than the police officer, shoot more accurately than the police officer, has more experience in using lethal force than the officer and has the proper mindset needed to survive the encounter.

These findings need to be a wakeup call to the public: The thugs among us have been going through urban combat training since a very early age, and in the typical encounter, the street predator has the advantage.

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To the readers of this website and those who take responsibility for their own safety, many of the study’s findings will not be surprising. For instance, offenders:

  • Do not pick a particular firearm with any criteria in mind, instead being stuck with what happened to be on hand.
  • Do not legally buy their firearms, with only one exception in the study.
  • Do not obtain any firearms from gun shows.
    -Almost exclusively chose handguns over the infamous “assault rifles.”
  • Do not use accessories or equipment, such as holsters or flashlights.

    Beyond these findings, which are common sense confirmations of the reality that exists for all but the most rabid anti-gunners, some of the findings are pretty shocking, and we should adjust our training accordingly.

  • Criminals do not worry about marksmanship, stance, grip, sight alignment or any of the other fundamentals we rely upon. Instead, they rely most often on instinctive shooting, or “point and click.” The key is to get rounds on target, quickly. As one cold-blooded killer remarked, even if he shoots you in the leg, he can walk up later after you are incapacitated and put one in your head. Despite this, the criminals have a much greater accuracy rate than the police.
  • Criminals have been carrying and using firearms for far longer than those they target, as early as since age 9 and almost all since age 12. This has given them real-life experience in the carrying and use of guns from a very early age, and just like the young athlete out on the basketball court until sundown, they excel at what they practice.
  • Criminals have been through a PhD program in mindset. Most of these thugs have grown up without parents and have learned the lessons of the street. For years and years, their ability to survive has depended largely upon their willingness to do whatever it takes to persevere in an encounter. Think about that, while your kids are home eagerly awaiting the debut of High School Musical 2 in the coming weeks, those who will prey on them are out experiencing life and death encounters, and not necessarily for the first time. As an interesting corollary to this, the thugs who have been involved in repeated deadly encounters have probably USED force; the police who have been involved in repeated deadly encounters often have simply THREATENED the use of force. The police mindset is perhaps being diluted since they often defuse the encounter without using the gun, whereas the bad guy almost always uses the gun.
  • Criminals most often hide their guns in the waistband of their pants, often near their groin. The male criminals were of a uniform opinion that female police officers were more willing to conduct a thorough search of their person than male officers. Beyond this, the study found police often missed “telltales” of weapon presence on the offender. Bulges, inappropriate clothing, constant touching of the gun through layered clothing, blading the body away from the officer to protect access to the gun etc.

    This is very scary stuff to those of us who work 9-5 and rush home to get the kids to soccer practice. We have so many different things on our minds as we go through the day that often we are not in a position to conduct ourselves appropriately from a personal security standpoint. (Ohio’s laws on “no carry” zones do not help. Gun bans disarm victims, not criminals.) The fact that our sworn officers are perhaps at a training disadvantage to the bad guys should be a stark warning to us civilians. We need to recommit ourselves and our families to living the Warrior mindset while still being normal, functioning members of society.


    Otherwise, in an armed encounter, a concealed carry license is just as worthless as a rabbit’s foot carried for luck.

    Attorney Ken Hanson is Buckeye Firearms Association Legislative Chair and author of The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws.

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