An interesting article in today’s New York Times reports that police officers who shoot their weapons in response to crime hit their target less than half the time, many times less than one-third of the time.
New York City police statistics show that in 2006, in cases where police officers intentionally fired a gun at a person, they discharged 364 bullets and hit their target 103 times, for a hit rate of 28.3 percent, according to the department’s Firearms Discharge Report.
In 2005, officers fired 472 times in the same circumstances, hitting their mark 82 times, for a 17.4 percent hit rate.
In all shootings — including those against people, animals and in suicides and other situations — New York City officers achieved a 34 percent accuracy rate (182 out of 540), and a 43 percent accuracy rate when the target ranged from zero to six feet away.
Wow! When the target is less than six feet away the officers still miss more than half of the time! Does that mean that they are bad marksmen (markspersons?)
Not at all. When you factor in that the target is likely running, the officer is likely running, the weather, the lighting conditions, the officer being taken by surprise, that the officers are trying to not hit innocent by-standers, the fact that a handgun is not a perfect weapon…all that combines to result that those who track such things consider the “hit rate” to be fairly acceptable. It also lays to rest the misconception that officers can “shoot to wound” verses “shoot to kill.” It is only in TV and movies that an officer can realistically shoot a gun out of a criminals hand. It just doesn’t happen. In the majority of cases, the officer shoots, not to kill, not to wound, but to stop. The subject must be stopped from harming others and the intent is simply to stop the subject. Wounding vs. killing is not necesarily an option.
(Entire news story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/weekinreview/09baker.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin)
So what is the point of that in a preaching blog? This morning I got slammed by a couple of church members who were livid over some comment that I made from the pulpit. They took almost my entire time between worship services complaining about a comment that they disagreed with. And part of that is OK…that’s my job…whether the comments are justified or not. But it did totally bum me out and put me in a lousy mood to begin second worship service.
But for some reason, reading that news report encouraged me. Usually I don’t have upset people (whether I should be WORKING to upset more people instead of pleased that I don’t upset people is a subject for an entirely different blog entry!!). And my observation was that most of the people there today were encouraged by what I had to say. So if I only had two mad ladies out of 350 in attendance…I guess my rate is better than that of the police officers in New York. Good salesmen make sales often less than the 50% the time. Marketers consider something a success if more than .5% of the people their message reaches make a purchase! So I guess that would put my “hit rate” into a little better light.
So, it puts is in perspective for me. You preach what you believe God has put on your heart to say. You do your best. You are faithful to the text. If you miss hitting someone, well…that is unfortunate, but not avoidable. You trust that God takes your best efforts at being faithful and works them for his purposes.