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Review 1 of "Improving Mandatory Firearms Training For Law Enforcement: An Autoethnographic Analysis of Illinois Law Enforcement Training"

...Qualitative...Criminology

Published onMar 19, 2021
Review 1 of "Improving Mandatory Firearms Training For Law Enforcement: An Autoethnographic Analysis of Illinois Law Enforcement Training"

Vote: Publish pending minor changes


[For votes to count, referees must reasonably explain why they voted as they did. Thus, please explain your vote. If you voted to publish pending minor changes, specify each change, why it is needed, and, possibly, how it should/could be done.]

I will not comment on the method, because I am not very familiar with ethnography, at least, not enough to comment on how it was conducted and how the results are presented. To be clear, I completely agree with the conclusions and believe that the study has important implications. The sentence on page 10 “By grossly oversimplifying potential use of force scenarios and equating them with military intervention in a hostile area […]” is a great one, that very well captures the main result of the paper. As such, I believe that the paper should be published, eventually. However, I did note some issues, that are listed in order of appearance in the manuscript. I believe that the paper could be suitable for publication after these issues are addressed.

First, there is no state of the situation in the world. Is firearms training frequent? Mandatory everywhere? Similarly, it could be useful to paint a picture of the use of firearms in policing, and perhaps, why it is part of the equipment. I suggest adding a bit of information about firearms (and firearm training) in the world, very early in the paper -it is general information after all, but information that could introduce and situate the current study.

Second, and relatedly, the study appears to be restricted to Illinois -but the conclusions are relevant to other jurisdictions as well. Consequently, I believe that it would strengthen the paper if the general path to become an officer in Illinois, but also elsewhere, was better described. For example, in the province of Quebec, police candidates must follow a 3-year college curriculum before they learn how to use a firearm. In other words, police candidates are well aware of the legal framework that comes with the use of a firearm before they are trained to use one. They also learn about potential bias related to decision-making prior to their technical training. As such, they do not “start from scratch” when the use of force model is reviewed during the firearm training. Now, I know that the Quebec model is not representative of training models elsewhere; my point is that I don’t know how the Illinois model is more representative of the situation, and that it would help understanding the paper.

Third, I am unsure how the discussion of selection on page 9 is relevant to the paper -the paragraph that starts with “Of the 20 or so participants” and the following one. I do believe that it is an important issue, but it seems out of place there. I suggest moving it to the backend of the paper, or simply to remove it.

Fourth, it would be useful to include some references to police culture. Many studies describe how training reinforces the “us vs them” element of police culture; one idea could be to start with a paper my colleagues and I wrote a couple of years ago and see who we cited and who cites us.

Boivin, R., Faubert, C., Gendron, A. & Poulin, B. (2020). The ‘us vs them’ mentality: A comparison of police cadets at different stages of their training. Police Practice and Research, 21(1), 49-61.

Fifth, the dichotomy between the warrior vs guardian mindset is interesting and could be expanded. I suggest two avenues. The first is to discuss how often firearms are actually used during a police officer’s career. There is literature about this, and it would reinforce the argument that comparing the police to the military is not relevant. The second is that firearm training could be discussed in terms of community policing, the ideological shift that was widely adopted during the 1990s. What does it mean, in terms of firearms and police legitimacy? Wesley Skogan wrote a lot about this.

Sixth, I was surprised that there are no references to any study on the shoot/don’t shoot decision. Fridell (2017) did a good job reviewing these, it would be a very good starting point. The discussion section left me the impression that the author selected a few implications that fitted the paper and left out less convenient ones -like the impact of legal framework on the use of firearms, biases and profiling.

Fridell, L. (2017). Producing bias-free policing: A science-based approach. Springer.

Finally, I do not believe that the conclusion section adds anything, and it looks like a repetition of the previous paragraphs. I suggest deleting -it is not ideal however to end a paper with the limitations of the study, It leaves a bad taste, so perhaps the author should rework a short section instead of the current conclusion.

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