New York City Police Department

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Press Release | NO. 2007-001

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Press Release # 001
Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced today that the RAND Corporation will undertake an objective, comprehensive assessment of the New York City Police Department’s firearms training and firearms discharge review process.

The assessment will focus on:

  • Initial firearms training provided to new recruits in the Police Academy
  • In-service firearms training, including the annual qualification training for every officer
  • Tactical firearms training and specialized courses
  • Firearms Discharge Review Board functions and processes
  • The phenomenon of reflexive shooting, its prevalence and the effectiveness of methods to control it

"A police officer’s split second decision to use deadly physical force has enormous consequences and is the weightiest responsibility conferred by law," Commissioner Kelly said. "As a result, we invest substantial resources in firearms training for our officers.  In conducting this review, RAND will examine the quality and completeness of our firearms training program and  identify potential improvements in the design and delivery of the curriculum, the technology used, the frequency and duration of training sessions, the tactics and procedures on which the training is based and the Police Department’s firearms discharge review process."

"We chose RAND to do this study because of its 30-year track record in running one of the oldest and most respected police policy research programs in the world, and for its reputation for objectivity and quality," Commissioner Kelly added. "RAND has helped police departments around the United States improve policies on the use of force, investigative procedures, police-community relations, manpower and training, and in many other areas."

K. Jack Riley, PhD, Associate Director of the RAND Infrastructure, Safety and Environment Division and Acting Director of RAND Center on Quality Policing, said: "RAND will conduct a thorough, balanced and independent evaluation of the way New York City police officers are trained to use firearms and to evaluate how firearms discharges by officers are reviewed. We will identify problems and seek effective solutions that will help police officers improve their performance and better serve New Yorkers and visitors to the city from around the world."  

RAND’s study team will collect information about similar firearms training in law enforcement agencies nationwide, will consult with recognized firearms training experts from around the country and will seek to identify best practices.  In particular, the latest advances in computer simulation technology will be reviewed in order to identify systems that may improve officer responses in highly stressful situations and reduce the incidence of reflexive shooting.

The study will also examine the structure and process of the Department’s current Firearms Discharge Review Board in order to help the Department incorporate the lessons learned from each firearms discharge incident into its training, policy and practice.

For almost 60 years, the RAND Corporation has  addressed critical policy challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. RAND’s rigorous analytic approach and  exacting quality assurance processes have made the nonprofit research organization  a trusted provider of objective and pragmatic perspectives.

As part of its study, which is expected to be completed this summer, RAND will convene a panel of recognized firearms training experts to identify  best practices that police departments around the United States use when dealing with the discharge of firearms. RAND will also solicit insights on the phenomena of reflexive shooting, emotional contagion shooting, and other characteristics of firearms discharge incidents, including those that involve multiple officers or that occur in low-light situations.

RAND will also statistically evaluate available data on the circumstances of firearms discharge incidents. Discharge incidents will be examined to identify commonalities that may need to be integrated into classroom and simulation training. The characteristics of officers involved in discharge incidents will be examined for patterns in training, experience, supervision, and other factors that may help predict, and thus reduce, firearms discharges generally and inappropriate discharges in particular.

RAND’s review of the new recruit and in-service firearms training will include  classroom observations, analysis of written course materials, and an examination of the computer simulation tools used.  In addition, RAND will review the available literature and the insights offered by  experts and the statistical analysis to examine the phenomena of reflexive shooting, emotional contagion shooting, and related incident characteristics, as well as methods to prevent and control them. The examination will include analysis of the Police Department’s firearms training in the academy, in-service training, and tactical and specialized training in the context of adult learning and the psychology of weapons discharge under extreme circumstances.

RAND will also examine how firearms training and firearms incident reviews are conducted in other law enforcement departments throughout the country.  RAND will identify promising practices that might be appropriate for NYPD, including computer simulation techniques used in firearms training by  police departments elsewhere and the military services.

The cost of the RAND study will be underwritten by the New York City Police Foundation. It will be conducted by  experts in training systems, social and cognitive psychology, statistics and policing, including Dr. Riley and Bernard D. Rostker, PhD, who will head the study. See their biographies, below:


K. Jack Riley

Photo of K. Jack RileyAssociate Director, RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment; Acting Director, RAND Center on Quality Policing


Border control; Criminal justice; Domestic terrorism; Drug policy; Emergency response; Policing and law enforcement; Public safety; Race and the criminal justice system; Rail and port security issues; Sentencing policy; Supply chain issues; Violent crime; International law enforcement systems

Recent Work

Terrorism; international and domestic law enforcement operations; public safety issues, such as gun violence, gun markets, youth violence, and substance abuse

Previous Positions

Director, RAND Public Safety and Justice; Codirector, RAND Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy; Director, Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice


Ph.D., RAND Graduate School (now the Pardee RAND Graduate School); M.S., Georgetown University; B.A., University of Michigan

Publications of Interest

"Border Control," in David Kamien, ed., The McGraw-Hill Homeland Security Handbook, 2005

Establishing Law and Order After Conflict, Seth G. Jones et al., RAND Corporation, 2005

Just Cause or Just Because? Prosecution and Plea-Bargaining Resulting in Prison Sentences on Low-Level Drug Charges in California and Arizona, K. Jack Riley et al., RAND Corporation, 2005

"Law and Order in Palestine," Seth G. Jones and K. Jack Riley, Survival, Vol. 46, No. 4, Winter 2004

When Terrorism Hits Home: How Prepared Are State and Local Law Enforcement? Lois M. Davis et al., RAND Corporation, 2004

Bernard D. Rostker

Photo of Bernard D. RostkerSenior Fellow; Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration


Military personnel

Recent Work

Managing the all-volunteer force; reforming the military by lengthening military careers

Previous Positions

Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Under Secretary of the Army; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs; Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses, Director of Selective Service


Ph.D., M.A. in economics, Syracuse University

Publications of Interest

"Recruitment and Retention:  Lessons for the New Orleans Police Department" by Bernard Rostker, William M. Hix, and Jeremy M. Wilson,  to be published by RAND in 2007.

 I Want You! The Evolution of the All-Volunteer Force, RAND Corporation, 2006

"Changing the Officer Personnel System," in Cindy William, ed., Filling the Ranks: Transforming the U.S. Military Personnel System, MIT Press, 2004

"The Gates Commission: Right for the Wrong Reasons," in Curtis L. Gilroy, ed., The All-Volunteer Force: Thirty Years of Service, Brassey's Inc., 2004

"Transformation and the Unfinished Business of Jointness: Lessons for the Army from the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, and Afghanistan," in Lynn E. Davis, ed., The U.S. Army and the New National Security Strategy, RAND Corporation, 2003

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