Well, RAND put together a study in 2008 that appears to confirm some of the issues.
Here's some info I put together:
In police academy, recruits get 4.5 hours on "weapons." It is unclear if that is actual training with their duty issued weapons or if that is about weapons charges. They get 9 hours on "patrol procedures." There are also 10.5 hours on "street encounters" and 9 hours on "use of force." They must pass a firearms and tactics course:
Firearms and tactics: Passing means successfully completing all components of basic firearm course and tactical components. It includes handgun qualification with a minimum of 78 percent hits on a number of stationary targets from fixed firing positions
The academy also includes some use of a "shoot don't shoot" simulator. I've used these before and they can be good training aids. However, with large "companies" of 30 students in a policy academy class of 2000-4000 students, I suspect that time and access to the sims is limited:
...the Meggitt FATS simulator can still accommodate only a few students at a time, thus limiting how useful it can be in providing recruits with a robust tool to learn and practice these complex policing skills that may have direct consequences for the use of force.
Typically, two students use the Meggitt FATS simulator at a time, with the remaining recruits observing. Each training event takes several minutes to set up, five minutes or so to run, and five minutes to critique. With 16 recruits in a class, it takes 1.5 hours for every member of the class to get a single opportunity to experience training on the simulator. At that rate, it is not possible to expose students to the widely varied scenarios that Meggitt has developed that now include judgment scenarios.
Range time is also limited: "For example, twice a year, the range at Rodman’s Neck devotes 10 weeks
to training recruits." THere are 4000 recruits per year and 230 firing points are available at Rodman's Neck. Even if we assume that 75% of the points are dedicated to recruit training, that means that there are only two range days per recruit. I find that optimistic, as I assumed that during the 10 week period there were no missed training days and that range availability remains at 75% for basic recruits.
Straight from RAND:
Refresher Firearm Training and Requalification
The semiannual firearm requalification consists of three parts:
• Lecture: A two-part lecture to remind officers of current safety and tactical issues. The first lecture consists of 38 overhead slides that review drawing the firearm, fundamentals of shooting, accidental discharges, firearm maintenance, and the basics of using OC spray. The second lecture covers epartmentwide firearm discharge reports, use of force, reflexive shooting, patrol tactics, dogs, and firearm
• Practice: An opportunity to fire 45 rounds of ammunition at stationary targets at 7-, 15-, and 25-yard distances. Practice is unscored on a tactical pistol course.
Requalification: This included firing 50 rounds at stationary targets at 7-, 15-, and 25-yard distances. A minimum of 39 hits is required to qualify.
The current firearm-requalification program is less about making sure officers can effectively use their pistols in real-life situations than it is about meeting legal requirements and professional standards. While the requalification course meets the standards required by the state of New York and is consistent with national norms, shooting at paper targets on a known-distance range is basically target practice. It does not demonstrate that the officer has mastered his or her firearm and is ready for a shooting confrontation on the streets. In fact, the NYPD has several advanced ranges that better prepare officers for confrontations involving firearms, but logistical considerations prevent them from being used as part of the semiannual requalification program for the vast majority of officers, including patrol officers assigned to street duty. The NYPD is not alone in this. Morrison and Vila (1998, p. 510) made the point that [despite a nearly] universal acceptance [that] both the process and product of handgun qualifications . . . strongly [imply] that officers exceeding prescribed minimum performance levels are proficient . . . a consensus among police firearms trainers [is that such training does not] substantially enhance officer or community safety. . . . There are serious reasons to question the validity of police recruit and in-service handgun training activities.They argued that “[o]fficers are not truly qualified merely by firing a rote ‘qualification’ course since much more than this is required to produce the type and degree of preparation needed for armed encounters” (Morrison and Vila, 1998, p. 529).
They concluded as follows:
It is difficult to reconcile demonstrated police handgun accuracy with the commonly held notion that the police are competent with their handguns by way of their participation in mandated recruit and in-service training. Since qualification implies competency, it is important to reconsider what, and how the police are taught, particularly since the handgun remains a primary defensive tool and will continue receiving the bulk of departmental firearms budgets, training time and effort. . . . Much more than [the rote qualification course] is required to produce the type and degree of preparation needed for armed encounters. (Morrison and
Vila, 1998, p. 529)
The firearm trainers are aware that static targets are not sufficient to meet the department’s needs and have been planning a new tactical pistol course. Unlike the static qualification course, it includes firing at moving targets, firing from cover and crouched positions, moving to different firing positions and distances and firing from each, firing in pairs, and firing after exertion. We observed one group of officers going through this course that is being implemented at the firing range. This is surely an improvement over shooting at static targets, but it is not scored, and, because of the scale of operations with so many officers having to requalify twice a year, we are not confident that it will be a much more meaningful training experience than officers currently receive with static targets. For example, without scoring the tactical pistol course, how can the Firearms and Tactics Section evaluate its effectiveness? Given the number of officers who must requalify each year, the objective seems to be to get the officers through as quickly as possible rather than to have them master the art of realistic shooting. For example, during one of our visits to the range, one instructor pointed out that the bullet-hole grouping of one officer indicated that she was improperly anticipating her shots. However, because the officer had achieved the requisite score, no remedial instruction was offered.
RAND also looked at equipment. Of course, they did not consider the trigger pull issues. THey did suggest spending money on lights/lasers in some cases. They also highlighted issues with currently fielded holsters.
I got the impression that the RAND folks do not understand defensive pistolcraft. Of course, that is not their job. Their job is to crunch numbers and data. Still, even they were able to identify significant issues with NYPD.
As for the competency of civilians vs. police... It looks like best case a NYPD police recruit gets around two to four days at the range plus maybe up to 33 hours of classroom academics that could relate in some manner to weapons. Every six months they get one day at the range and 95 rounds of ammo for practice on a scripted known-distance target practice style range.
Alaska Tactical's Defensive Handgun I course is 24 hours of instruction over three range days. It also has pre-requisites, so applicants probably have some previous experience bringing them up to match or exceed the 33 hours at NYPD. Finally, the class size is small with a good coach to student ratio. Front Sight's basic defensive pistol course is 4 days with 32 hours of instruction. That is clearly at least on par with if not exceeding the NYPD police academy requirements.
Furthermore, any civilian who attends IDPA or USPSA matches once every six months or more is getting more refresher training than NYPD. Heck, the civilian who goes to the range once every few months and puts a box or two of ammo through their pistol, along with maybe a little dry fire at home, is doing WAY more than NYPD.
The LEOs probably get more retention and hand to hand training. They also likely get more use of force discussion. However, the use of force decisions made by LEOs are somewhat more complicated in that LEOs have more force options (hands, batons, tasers, sprays, firearms) and are more prone to use them (due to expectations, immunity from prosecution or lawsuits, etc).
I feel pretty confident in saying that Heather and I have as much or more defensive pistol training as the average NYC beat cop. Probably way more, honestly. Such training is not particularly hard to acquire. Many civilians have it. That does not make me a cop, obviously -- I am much less likely to intervene in a public incident, and my firearm is for protecting me and my family, not the general public. From a skills point of view though it is not hard to acquire skills that exceed those possessed by most NYPD LEOs.