Police and the use of the firearm: an approximation to its reality

Interventions by police agents involving the use of firearms have noteworthy implications, from both a personal and professional viewpoint. Such interventions also tend to involve a certain level of complexity and have a social impact, both of which must be taken into account.

The Catalonia Institute of Public Security (ISPC), in collaboration with the  Generalitat Police Force – Mossos d’Esquadra (PG-ME) and the Department of the Interior, carried out a study of different firearm-related situations. This study, which concluded in June 2015, was based on an analysis of real cases explained by police officers who volunteered to do so in rationally high-risk situations.

In the publication Real situations involving firearms –fourth issue of the collection “Segments of Security”, published at the end of 2016− there are results of this study from different viewpoints: the psychophysical, the legal and that of police intervention, and it also aims to interpret present intervention policies and future proposals for research and training purposes in this context.

When a police officer is involved in a firearm-related intervention, he / she experiences a range of physiological, emotional, instinctive, cognitive and behavioural reactions with such a level of intensity which are difficult to come to terms with and which cause a certain fatigue. Therefore, police officers also need time to interiorise what they have felt and been through in an intervention of this sort.

In police terms, when a firearm situation crops up, a process of self-investigation begins to understand the facts and the intervention carried out. Legally, a legal procedure begins to know if the use of force used by the law enforcement agency was used in an appropriate or arbitrary way.

The structure of the study involves the following chapters:

  • Records: Norms and training, as well as completed studies of the reactions of the person when he / she is exposed to life-threatening situations.
  • Core of the study: The evolution of the present study from its origins, via an explanation and analysis of cases, until the final results with conclusions and specific training proposals, which must be transformed into police training techniques which go beyond the traditional static shot, which is barely relevant to the realities of police work
  • Legal assessment of firearm use by police and jurisprudence: The legal take on some cases of this study and other similar cases can help officers to understand the reasons for the legal procedure, which begins after the intervention and continues until a final decision is taken.


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