Robert Farago: Who Polices the Police?

Categories: Police & Thieves, Politics
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Published on: October 22, 2012

“Two weeks before Spokane police Officer Barry O’Connell’s daughter accidently shot herself [in the leg] Easter Sunday with her father’s department-issued pistol,” spokesman.com reports, “O’Connell [above] had completed a gun safety refresher course stressing the importance of properly securing firearms – especially around children.” Officer O’Connell wouldn’t be the first cop (or salesman) to take a training course and ignore its lessons. But the fact that O’Connell’s instructor upbraided his student for piss-poor muzzle control and nonchalant gun handling indicates larger issues with the Spokane force. Why didn’t Sgt. Matthew Cowles recommend that the force confiscate O’Connell’s gun and sideline the officer until he learned proper gun handling? According to Cowles…

“I reiterated that we have a special responsibility to our own children and need to keep our firearms stored safely,” Cowles wrote in a report that was included in the shooting investigation. “I made special note that we don’t want any of our children hurt and we don’t want to be the next news story.”

Cowles wrote that he pulled O’Connell aside and spoke to him after Cowles watched O’Connell flip his gun out of his holster without looking where it was pointed.

“He looked at me with a blank expression and said, ‘Well, I am confident in my gun handling,’ ” Cowles wrote. “I told him bluntly, ‘Barry, obviously you weren’t listening. On the range you will handle weapons safely and follow instructions.’ I was less than impressed by his nonchalance attitude while attending training.”

Bad but not worth disarmament. Until you consider that “It was the 16th time O’Connell has faced internal investigation, and the decision to let him return to the force after his suspension was described as a ‘last chance.’”

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