Masterson: Democracy fails police leaders at state Capitol

Boise chief of policeFebruary 12, 2014 

Editor's note: Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson released these comments following a Senate committee hearing Feb. 12 on legislation allowing concealed weapons on college campuses.

Boise police Chief Mike Masterson registered early to testify this morning at 8 a.m. before the Senate State Affairs Committee. He was joined by other police chiefs and law enforcement leaders, some who travelled as far as Moscow to offer testimony. Committee Chairman McKenzie deferred to the NRA lobbyist, Mr. Dakota Moore, to introduce and explain the bill, a process than involved nearly 40 minutes. Testimony than began using a combined list of those who registered electronically and those who signed up just prior to the committee hearing. Testimony was closed at 10:25 a.m. despite Senator Werk’s statement that he’d like to hear from other state universities and the police departments providing police services. Interestingly enough FOP, a group that actively lobbies legislators, was permitted to testify yet none of the police leaders were called.

Where is our democracy today when police leaders directly responsible for developing policy and training for your safety are effectively silenced by the chair of a committee who introduced the bill himself.

I urge citizens from all over Idaho who have an interest in this issue to contact their Idaho senators and representatives to share your opinion on this issue. First ask yourself this question, do I want my son or daughter attending a university or college where other students can carry a concealed weapon to class, with minimum training and often with the barest of qualifications to obtain a permit, and most likely without liability insurance to be in a position to stop a shooting but at the expense of injuring or killing your child. I think the answer is easy and it needs an overwhelming grass-roots initiative in notifying your State elected official of your opinions. Let’s hope democracy can be restored through other means - the people’s voice.

The following is a transcript of testimony the chief was prepared to offer.

Thank you Chairman McKenzie and members of the State Senate Affairs Committee for the opportunity to testify today.

My name is Mike Masterson. I have been a police officer for 37 years. I am chief of police of the Boise Police Dept., a position I’ve held since Jan. 2, 2005. My department provides police services, by contract, to Boise State University.

I believe the proposed legislation found in S 1254 is well intended but creates many unintended consequences. I’m here to oppose this legislation and am joined by virtually all police chiefs across the state policing Idaho’s college campuses as well as presenting a letter from Chief Dan Hall, president of the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association, opposing it as well.

I believe our current policy which allows each university president the authority to determine safety measures on their respective campuses is the best practice. At Boise State current LE officers, on and off duty, in uniform or dressed in plain clothes, as well as qualified retired LE, are permitted to carry a concealed weapon. These folks have received hundreds of hours of training throughout their careers which makes them uniquely qualified to handle the unlikely event of a crime, like a mass shooting being committed in their presence.

My objection in expanding CCW to those who have an enhanced training is based on the insufficient training and preparation they receive to carry in these environments. The enhanced CCW covers 8 hours of training. It covers the very basics in classroom instruction and in firearms qualification. 98 rounds of punching holes in paper is a far cry from the countless hours of training we teach our police officers. We prepare our officers for crisis situations, physiological, psychological and mechanical - teaching them how the heart rate increases, blood flow is restricted to appendages, muscle memory is developed, and our brains automatically reduce our vision (tunnel vision) to the item we focus on. It takes many hours of training to overcome how our bodies undermine our decisions to use force appropriately. Officers practice crisis rehearsal daily, responding to calls, eating lunch, gassing their squads. I did it as I walked into the Capitol this morning; I’ll do it again when I call to the library later. Enhanced CCW permit holders reapply every five years.

Our weapons training involves shooting at moving threats, moving while shooting and shooting from cover. This proficiency occurs because of repetitive training and is a perishable skill, that’s why it is repeated regularly. Confidence, often inspired by movies, video games and our own mindsets, usually exceeds our personal abilities. The hard, undeniable truth is that CCW class doesn’t teach everything that needs to be taught for these special crowded situations and doesn’t require the repetition required to maintain those skills. Every firearm expert will tell you that only a small fraction of the shots fired by a trained individual, police officer or citizen will actually hit the target. That accuracy is questionable and a real life danger exists of shooting innocent people who may be running for their lives or paralyzed by fear in a stationary position. That’s not the type of odds a trained police officer wants to face and that’s not an answer I want to give to parents of students who may be injured or killed because we don’t consider the unintended consequences of the laws we pass and the actions we take as a result of them.

I’m concerned about a self-activation of a CCW on a campus and the potential to be involved in a deadly force encounter with an LE officer. We see those deadly encounters often enough in blue on blue shootings where another officer , even in uniform is the victim. We have crowded environments where dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people congregate whether it’s a classroom, performing center or stadium parking lot to root on your favorite college football team. When the opportunity to mix firearms with alcohol is available we have seen far too often the tragic consequences.

If you get time please visit http://youtu.be/8QjZY3WiO9s, a nine-minute video on a controlled study on a college campus involving a wide range of people with varying amounts of weapons familiarity and their ability to react effectively to armed aggressors. Most CCW holders won't even be able to un-holster their gun and they will more likely be killed themselves or kill innocent bystanders than stop the aggressor.

Please consider this testimony, that of my experienced colleagues, our college campus leaders and experts and do not approve S. 1254. Thank you.

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