Cops and Guns – A Generational Difference?

By Bruce J. Emmott

Visitors to my website will know that I retired in 1994 after 25 years in the NYPD, working some of the toughest and most dangerous precincts in the city http://brucesplace.homepage.com. I’ve always been pro gun, as were most of the cops of my generation – most of us joining departments on returning from Southeast Asia. In the mid to late 60’s, prior military service was almost the norm, and cops grew up in an environment of knowing and understanding guns and weapons. That was so even in NY, a place not now known to be friendly towards guns or gun owners.

Over my years, I noticed a not so subtle change in the attitudes of cops coming on the job. This was especially true during the early 80’s. While at one time approximately 90% of new cops had military or quasi-military experience (used to discipline and following orders), the figure in the 80’s almost reversed, with less than 10% of new officers having military experience. These cops grew up in a totally different environment than my generation did. They didn’t know guns, didn’t particularly like them, and didn’t trust anyone who felt the need to have them. I knew many young cops who refused to carry a gun off duty, in violation of then existing department regulations. In fact the NYPD changed the rule that officers must be armed at all times, and went so far as to recommend that we NOT carry a gun in certain circumstances. Whereas it was axiomatic that a cop was never “off duty” and expected to take police action at any time, the 80’s brought the attitude that while off duty the department preferred you NOT “get involved” in off duty incidents. This was partially based on liability concerns, but more to the point revealed an attitude that cops were “ordinary citizens” and should “call a cop” when they observed a crime off duty. While this was an anathema to most of my generation, the younger cops embraced the idea. Why not – it let them off the hook. They no longer had to carry a gun, and with it the responsibility it demanded. We now had a generation of essentially “part time” cops. In my last 5 years on the job, I saw more “accidental discharges”, “stolen” guns, and failures to qualify than in the previous 20 years combined. Range qualification was a joke – cops considered it merely a day off to have some fun. Individual practice, and with it proper care of your tools of the trade, likewise became a joke. Any wonder it recently took 4 cops 41 shots to bring down a suspect? Lousy training, lousy tactics, too many young glory seekers running around unsupervised – a bad combination.

I was involved in 4 gunfights in my career – none anticipated or sought out. I received many decorations for bravery during my career – likewise not sought out. Yet I heard and saw young cops talking about getting into gunfights so they could get medals. Kinda scary stuff, when you think about it. In that same career, I was assisted by armed civilians on 2 occasions. I worked alone by preference, although 2 and 3 man cars and posts were the norm in my precinct. At one time I was in a situation where I had 5 males at gunpoint on a felony charge and was waiting for a backup to search and handcuff. A citizen in his car stopped and asked if I needed some help and said he had a permit for his gun. I gladly accepted and he stood to one side and helped control the subjects until backup arrived. To demonstrate the difference in generations, after all were in custody and being transported, one young cop took it upon himself to start questioning the civilian who came to my aid about his gun and where his permit was. I grabbed this nitwit and tore into him and the young Sergeant who was with him and told them that rather than giving a decent citizen a hard time, they should write (as I did) a letter of commendation to the police commissioner on his behalf.

On another occasion, I was in a gunfight that went down as one of the longest and most dangerous chases in the history of the NYPD. I personally fired 17 rounds from my service revolver, and my partner fired at least 12. I won’t go into all the details, but after chasing 3 men in a truck who tried to run down cops in an adjoining precinct, then firing at pursuing officers, I was rammed and spun into a very large tree and concrete park bench. My partner and I were both pinned in out car, and the good citizens of Brooklyn decided it would be fun to relieve us of our weapons and shields – since we obviously were hurt and couldn’t fight back. It was so bad a department helicopter following the chase asked permission (denied) to land on the roadway to assist us. While backup officers were attempting to fight there way to us through a huge crowd, a civilian stopped his car and ran to help us – pulling his licensed gun and firing a warning shot to get the crowd away from our car. His intervention saved us from, at the least, having our weapons taken, and possibly worse. Since my partner and I were seriously hurt and removed to the local trauma center, I never was able to get the civilian’s name so I could commend him. We spent a week in the hospital on that one, and it could very well have been far worse had it not been for this brave armed civilian.

I guess this is a long way of saying cops are different now. Guns scare them when they are not the ones holding them. They follow the political line of the departments that guns are bad, gun owners are bad, and there is no need for them in private hands. They actually seem to believe that all one needs to do if in trouble is dial 911. Personally, I’ll take responsibility for the safety of my family and myself, thank you very much. I don’t feel like waiting 15 minutes for a car to arrive in time to take a report or clean up the mess. I have a RIGHT – a right given me by God – to self defense and the defense of my loved ones. Not only that, but I still – 6 years after my retirement – feel it is my DUTY as a professional law enforcement officer to aid anyone who needs help. I’ve said before many times, to both active cops and other “civilians”, that one day all active cops will be just another civilian like I am now, and will be at the mercy of unworkable and unenforceable gun laws that do NOTHING to make society safer. The gun laws cops support now will come back to haunt them when they retire. On the contrary – it makes society LESS safe against the scum who by default will rule the streets if the anti-gun zealots have their way. But then they have their own security forces and live in gated communities, don’t they.

Think about it real hard, officers. Do YOU want to wait for a cop to arrive at your location when you need help NOW? Do YOU want to depend on some of the cops you work with now? I didn’t, and I don’t … and I won’t.

Bruce J. Emmott
New York Police Department (Ret.)
Disclaimer: All comments are the personal opinion of the writer and not intended to represent any government agency, whatsoever.

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