NYPD shoots two woman trying to stop unarmed man. Is it time for them to trade handguns for tasers?

It’s happened again:

Two bystanders were shot by New York police officers in Times Square on Saturday night as they opened fire on a mentally disturbed suspect

Witnesses said police were responding to reports of a 35-year-old man acting strangely at 42nd Port Authority, when two women were caught in the cross fire.

The women were taken to hospital after being shot in the leg and buttock, in an incident between 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.

One of the women, who was using a walker, appeared to have been shot in the knee. She was pictured laying on the sidewalk, with blood seeping through her jeans.

This isn’t the first time the New York Police Department officers shot more innocent people than suspects. Just over a year ago, officers shooting at a man who had just murdered another man hit nine bystanders.

The NYPD works in a city of 8.3 million souls packed into just 302.64 square miles, making it the most densely populated major city in the United States.

According the the NYPD’s web site, new recruits spend 13 days in basic and tactical training as recruits, and, and hit just 78% of their stationary man-sized targets from a fixed standing position to pass.

Thereafter, officers only re-qualify semi-annually, shooting just 50 rounds, again shooting at stationary man-sized targets from a fixed standing position. This suggests that the majority of 35,000 officers may spend at little as two hours a year using their firearms in even the most basic marksmanship training. Put another way, NYPD officers are deployed every day with no more range time in a year than many gun owners shoot in a single range session.

No wonder the NYPD hit rate is just 18% in gunfights, and only 27%-30% when their target did not shoot back or was completely unarmed.

To compound the problem, the NYPD does not deploy tasers to rank-and-file officers, as was revealed in a 2008 RAND Corporation report, meaning officers have few other options in their use of force continuum.

Considering the NYPD’s minimal training and population density, perhaps it is time to consider transitioning the majority of patrol officers away from handguns, towards tasers, while providing both tasers and sidearms to more highly-trained supervisors and special service units.

Their mission is to serve and protect, after all.