Thursday, June 14, 2012

Practice makes perfect, and may even save a life

By John Hurd,  Backgate Training Author

Firearms in a correctional setting are a must. The Primary mission of TDCJ is to provide public safety. Yes, promote positive change in offender behavior, reintegrate offenders into society and assist victims of crime is the rest of the mission statement. However, public safety is #1. Always has been. Always will be.

For this reason, the agency provides us with firearms for certain duties. Perimeter pickets, field force, transports, etc and although there are officers whose primary duties fall into these categories, it is all of our responsibility to make sure that we know how to use firearms properly. We never know when we may be in the position that we may have to use them.

During the course of my career, I have heard staff say that they don’t know how to use the firearms that we have. This just makes me shake my head and say “I can’t believe this.” When I ask why they don’t know, the answer that I get is almost always the same: “Well I only touch it during In-Service.” Are you kidding me???

Law Enforcement Officers, in most agencies, only go to the range once a year to qualify. Some may go more often but for the most part, it’s once a year, JUST LIKE US. Yet they know how to use the weapon. Their life depends on it? Yes, but so does ours. I may not have the luxury of working a picket, transportation or in the field but guess what? My life also depends on it.

Yes, for most of us we only get a chance to use them at In-Service, but that is no excuse. Last time that I checked it was part of our job description to know how to use firearms and show proficiency, not expert knowledge, but proficiency with them. Know how to load the weapon, unload the weapon, perform a safety check on the weapon, and be able to shoot. Qualifying with firearms during In-Service is not just shoot. It means that we have to show the instructors that we can handle the weapon safely and we can shoot a 70%.

Oh, and academy instructors, is there any way that you can let US do the entire safety check? By you locking my bolt open on the AR-15 does not help me, or others, show you that I can do the entire safety check by myself. This way I can avoid a disciplinary for substandard duty performance later on when I have to look at my supervisor during an emergency situation and tell them that I don’t know how to lock it open to do a safety check since the academy does it for me when I go to In-Service. Please let us do it???

Did you know that most academies, if not all, will allow you to go use the range? All you have to do is call them, set it up and provide your own ammo. They provide the weapon. Don’t have money for the ammo? That’s ok, you may still be able to ask if there is an instructor available to help you learn/stay refreshed on the weapon and work on the fundamentals (like being able to hit the target and not shoot over the berm!) I have yet to meet an instructor that says that they won’t do something like that. They are there to help. All we need to do is ask.

There is no excuse for not knowing how to use these weapons. We have to put the effort into it. The academy’s job is to refresh and update us. Not train us like we are in Pre-Service. Don’t have the time to go practice? Well guess what, neither do the cops and they work more than we do yet they find the time. Quit your complaining and excuses and just get it done. If you don’t like it, Wal-Mart is always hiring… 

John Hurd is the Backgate's newest contributing author. With over 20 years of Law Enforcement and Correctional training under his belt, John is a welcomed member of our Backgate Team. To comment on this story, please post below!


  1. This is a piss-poor effort. I think you're the only one griping about officer proficiency with weapons. The main ones to even touch weapons at my unit are the PST folks. They know what they're doing.

    "If you don’t like it, WalMart is always hiring…"

    I think you're the only one not liking something. Enjoy your new workplace-

    1. I think that you missed the point of what he is saying. I don't see him as complaining, just brining up the fact that it's our job on the line if we can't do what we say we can do. I have also heard other staff express the same complaint before during inservice and on the unit. I agree with Lisa.

  2. I actually had to read it again to completely understand it. Your viewpoint on the topic is very outright and convincing.

    Job Responsibilities

  3. He is right about In-Service staff not showing employees how to clear weapons and the like. I have questioned instructors and been told that first it is not part of the curriculums and second that they do not want to held responsible.
    They do not allow use of the weapons, so unless you have deep pockets and can buy your own, you get to experience them once a year.

  4. If I collected 50 dollars for every time I have heard the Walmart line, I might possible could retire a millionaire. How many times have I heard that at turnout. It makes me question what TDCJ really thinks about us. We are so lowly that the only job we could possible get if TDCJ shut down tomorrow is at good ole Walmart. I have seen many young folks use TDCJ as a stepping stone and go on to better pastures. We want to be respected but yet we don't even respect ourselves. After 30 years in the system, I've proved myself to be a great officer but my higher authority has me on the same level as a door greeter. I cringe when I hear " If you don't like it Walmart is hiring". How about " If you don't like it, be one of the one's who help change it".