Accidental and Unintentional Discharges

Bryan Yant

From the beginning of your firearms training, no matter where or when it began, I’m sure the very first things you were taught about firearms were some version of the firearms safety rules. They are:

  1. All firearms are to be considered loaded.
  2. Never point your firearm at anything you are not prepared to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  4. Be able to isolate your target and its backdrop.

Whatever you want to call a discharge of a firearm that was not an intentional action, one of the four firearms safety rules must have been violated. Clearly, in our field of policing, an unintentional discharge can lead to very serious and sometimes deadly consequences. We have seen this all throughout the country in training scenarios. Not one agency or tenure of officer is immune to human error.

Human error is exactly what an unintentional discharge is. Human error is defined as an action or decision that was not intended, a violation and deviation of a rule or procedure. Error is defined as a deviation from accuracy and correctness, a mistake.

This year we have seen, at the time this article was written, 10 on-duty unintentional discharges of firearms and less-lethal options. There have also been five unintentional discharges of firearms off duty this year. Thankfully, there has only been embarrassment on the part of the involved officer and property damage as a result of the unintentional discharges. Some instances of the discharges have been as a result of weapons maintenance, slinging or manipulating shotguns or less-lethal options while the system was off safe, during training demonstrations and scenarios, and donning and doffing gear in locker rooms.

LVMPD historically investigated these unintentional discharges through the CIRT process for on-duty discharges and IAB for off-duty discharges. Once the interviews were conducted, the case was sent back to the bureau commander to adjudicate the case with additional training and/or supervisory intervention. All of this was negotiated in the LVMPD/PPA Disciplinary Matrix.

Now, however, LVMPD has unilaterally decided to circumvent the negotiated Disciplinary Matrix and discipline officers with a written reprimand. We disagree with this change in practice and will continue to pursue our legal remedies.

In closing, please be safe out there. Complacency while manipulating a weapon system can result in significant mental and physical trauma. None of us are safe from error — that is why it is an error or accident. We do not report to work saying, “Today I’m intentionally going to have an unintentional discharge.” 

Thank you for your membership, and call us 24/7 with any questions.