At a time when police officers nationwide are facing criticism for killing a large number of Americans, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has adopted new firearms that are easier to shoot, doubling the number of accidental shootings, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Reported accidental shootings went from 12 in 2012 to 30 in 2014, the Times reports.
The increased number of accidental weapons discharge coincides with the Sheriff’s Department adopting Smith and Wesson M&P9 handguns that have a more sensitive trigger and no safety, the Times reports.
Accidents have included one deputy shooting himself in the leg while drawing his weapon, another opening fire in a bathroom stall or yet another mistakenly pulling the trigger and firing a round while looking for a suspect in a closet. While some mishaps have resulted in injuries to deputies, co-workers and the public were endangered in others.
Until now, the department was using Berettas, which require more force to pull the trigger — 12 to 15 pounds of pressure for the first shot, versus 6 to 8 pounds for the new M&P9s. Deputies were trained to rest their fingers on the trigger as soon as they took aim. But with the M&P9s, their fingers should stay off the trigger until the last minute, the Times reports.
“It’s muscle memory. And especially in stressful situations, people revert to their training,” Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers told the Times.
The department is forcing employees to take marksmanship tests four times a year instead of three and requiring those who have accidents to repeat training, the Times reports.
The report comes at a time when both the Sheriff’s Department and police nationwide are under scrutiny for use of deadly force. In December, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to create a civilian oversight board to help restore public trust in the Sheriff’s Department due to corruption, the Times reported.
On a national level, high profile shootings of disproportionately African Americans like Mike Brown in Ferguson, Aiyana Jones in Detroit and John Crawford in Dayton, Ohio have sparked a widespread Black Lives Matter movement.
In response to such shootings and the fact no national database currently exists to track police killings, journalists like D. Brian Burghart at the Reno News & Review and Kyle Wagner at Deadspin started keeping tallies. According to Burghart’s database, Fatal Encounters, 1,185 Americans were killed by police last year alone.