Saturday, April 09, 2011

On the potential danger from pistol-mounted flashlights

Back in a December post, I linked to a story about a Plano police officer who accidentally killed a man while trying to activate his pistol-mounted flashlight. So in looking at recent disciplinary actions from the Austin PD, I was interested to see a 3-day suspension (pdf) handed out last month to Officer Melvin Moreno for an incident where,
While inside the residence, Officer Moreno was standing on top of a table while attempting to search an attic crawl space using his pistol mounted flashlight. The table overturned and Officer Moreno fell, thereby causing his firearm to accidentally discharge once and strike another officer in the tops of both feet. The other officer was injured and required medical treatment.
The idea of a gun-mounted flashlight seems like one of those ideas that wasn't fully vetted before some vendor(s) began convincing departments to adopt the equipment. After all, in this instance the officer would never have unholstered his weapon at all if he weren't using the attachment, so the decision to equip him that way IMO is as much to blame for the episode as his own clumsiness. Mistakes will happen in the field, and for that reason there shouldn't be a lot of extra gadgetry officers are trying to work anywhere near the trigger of their firearm.

I can understand why departments would discipline when a cop accidentally discharges his service weapon, but arguably this incident points more to a flawed equipment decision by police administrators. I won't be at all surprised to see more accidental shootings happen while an officer is fumbling with their gun's flashlight attachment.

UPDATE: I emailed this post to Austin Chief Art Acevedo, who replied that, "We prohibited certain types of lights because of this type of incident." 


Anonymous said...

The first rule of police work is that you have to be smarter than your equipment.

Soronel Haetir said...

I can see the use in having a mounted flashlight, but it should not be the primary light source. No one should be going "Hrrm, need some light, better draw my gun". If you don't already have cause to have it drawn needing some light should not be sufficient.

Anonymous said...

Gun-mounted flashlights are a good idea. However, cops that feel the need to draw their gun in order to use a flaslight are idiots, and need to find another line of work. Perhaps a job packing rolls of toilet paper would be more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in 6 things:

(1) Is there a written hazard assessment related to the use of the equipment

(2) Does the agency conduct job-hazard-analysis, job-safety-analysis or phase hazard analysis;

(3) Does either agency have expert hazard analysis conducted periodically

(4) Are the officers required to receive training in the use of the equipment and to show proficiency in its use before issued said equipment

(5) Are daily, monthly and annual safety meetings conducted.

(6) Was there an accident investigation to determine root cause

Many job hazards can be controlled as soon as they are found, and immediate control or elimination of hazards is preferred. However, some identified hazards must be analyzed to determine the most effective means of controlling them. Such analysis should evaluate
both the probability of the hazard causing an accident or incident as well as the severity of the damage or injury that could occur.

john said...

I commented, but it blew up?
What I said was something like: why don't police-gear mags have LED panels, belts, wrist- straps, etc.? They are "'light' weight," last forever, use nearly no battery power, can be wide or focused as needed.
Imagine one on your wrist as you hold the gun---your sleeve always points where you hold the gun. Have one on the other sleeve, on pants legs to light other areas, other directions.
Flashlights never work great like the ones in 'X-Files' or movies, but imagine slapping your vest to turn on the lights--like Star Trek slapping their t-shirt button to turn on the radio. Beam me OUT, Scotty.
In my new career as the underemployed, why am I not an inventor? Crap.
But falling off a table or tripping, etc., that's an accident, and all bets are off.

Anonymous said...

Well 7:47
Virtually all written procedures for safe handling firearms include some variation of the cardinal rule which is never point a firearm at anything you do not intend to shoot.

Anonymous said...

@ 1149 That's right but does that include when your falling off of a turning over table? Do you think they got a JSA about climbing up on those tables? You think maybe he shouldn't have been up on that table especially if he was overweight or the table was just a piece of crap to start with and he shouldn't have been up there on it in the first place?

Anonymous said...

Dude is a cop, right? He's with his partner, looking in an attic. WTF do you think he's looking for? Donuts? Possibly a bad guy? WTF else does a cop have to be checking someone's attic out for? I didn't read anything in the original post about what he was searching for. Someone else probably knows. Yeah, the gun-mounted light isn't to be used when there isn't a threat, but maybe in this case, there was one.

Travis said...

A New York police officer who accidentally shot an unarmed elderly man was using the same gun-mounted flashlight that a Plano officer blamed in the fatal accidental shooting of a drug suspect last year, the New York Post reports.

Anonymous said...

As a person who kmows something about firearms training I say that it goes back to the simple adage of "Indexing you finger"

This means that you keep your finger outside of the trigger guard and away from the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

And yes this is a training issue. You will perform like you train.

Any time a person is in a stressful situation the first thing that goes is your fine motor skills

The only way to counter this is through training......

The weapon is not at fault, the flashlight is not at fault.

The Officer should be held accountable for his actions.
Even though it was an accident when he fell, the weapon should not, and would not have fired unless his finger was on the trigger.

There is no thing as an accidental discharge, they are called unintended discharges.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"this is a training issue. You will perform like you train."

I'd guess most veteran officers spent years training on guns w/o the flashlight attachments, so there's a bit of changing horses in midstream aspect to the decision to equip guns with flashlights. You've got officers who spent decades training without them now adjusting to extra gadgetry on their firearms that didn't use to be there. So you're right that you perform like you train, but for everybody but rookies that argument cuts both ways when you're talking about new equipment.

Anonymous said...

"There is no thing as an accidental discharge, they are called unintended discharges."

The relevant difference being .... ???

Anonymous said...


As a veteran I understand about changing in midstream, but, it is still my responsibility to familarize myself with whatever equipment that I use in the course of my duties..

As I stated before, you have to train, and even more so if you are getting something new.

Anon 9:37

To the relavent difference is a firearm will not discharge unless someone pulls the trigger.

Thus making it an unitentional discharge versus an accidental discharge.

The rule is to keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot....

Anonymous said...

I will stick to the old fashion way of holding a light away from my body so I don't target myself.

From the Force Science Institute who do outstanding work for many years......

Force Science Fingers DG Flashlight Mount in Fatal Police NDs

Anonymous said...

In reading several articles about this subject anonymous brings up for the first time considering that using a light source along with your hand held pistol makes you a target for any bad guy. Rather than giving him an accurate low-lite target for your center mass would it not make more sense to hold the light source out to the side and use a laser targeting device mounted on the pistol to target the bad guy and take care of business if necessary, without giving away your exact position?

NamJock said...

Thanks, used with laser sight, this makes a lot more sense than revealing your center mass to a bad guy in the dark than keeping weapon & light sourse in the same place, right in front of your face. At worst you get hit in the hand, but can use the opponents flash as a target and not reveal your vitals. If this is a dupe, plz forgive, New BLOGGER has me befuddled.

Ohio Dark Light said...

Completely agree with Soronel.

If the only source of light that you have is your gun light - you are so much more likely to hurt someone.

If you need a light, that means you are in a dark place. If the only light source you have is your gun light (an uni-directional, spot-light type of illumination) it's going to be very easy for something to seemingly "come out of nowhere" and frighten you.

When that happens - and your finger is already resting on the trigger - how much more likely are you to just accidentally pull the trigger?

Bad idea.