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German Police Used Only 85 Bullets Against People in 2011 (yahoo.com)
205 points by gscott on May 13, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 218 comments



Meanwhile, in America, not only is there no national tracking of firearm discharges -- there's no national tracking of how many people are killed by police.[1] The FBI tracks "justifiable homicides" by police -- which seems to range from 350 to 400 per year[2], and is limited to "The killing of a felon by a peace officer in the line of duty"[3] -- but it explicitly refuses to track all other killings by the police. (And rather strangely, there seems to be no private group which tracks these figures either. When I've googled for it in the past, I've found anecdotal stories claiming that groups which attempt to compile these figures are strongly discouraged from doing so. But now I can't seem to find those claims, however.) News reports of the shootings of unarmed non-fellons would suggest to me that there are a few score such killings every year, but there's no way to be sure.

Moral of the story: Germany is a profoundly civilised country. America, not so much.

[1] http://www.lvrj.com/news/deadly-force/142-dead-and-rising/na...

[2] http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/offenses/expanded_informati...

[3] http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/offenses/expanded_informati...


"Germany is a profoundly civilised country. America, not so much."

I don't think making unnecessarily provocative comments like this adds much to the discussion.


Can you point to the "provocative" part? I don't see it...


At risk of invoking Godwin's Law...

The USA and Germany have both done terrible things, claiming moral superiority of one or the other is treading on thin ice.


At the risk of invoking common sense: Things that you did nearly a hundred years ago are not especially relevant to the discussion of what you're doing today.

If somebody used to smoke in the 60s and now campaigns to help fight substance abuse, can we still not call them an anti-smoking advocate?

Would it be accurate to call you a gamete? You used to be one, after all — probably more recently than the terrible things you're talking about Germany doing.

It's useful to remember the past, but to excuse present wrongs because of past ones is inane, as is placing equal people on the person who did the deed and his or her grandchildren.


You are funny. Those stats have always looked quite similar for Germany, back to the fifties. Alone for that reason they cannot be a good indicator for whether a country is civilized. I’m sorry, but state sponsored murder of 11 million innocent people is not outweighed by the police only shooting very few bullets at criminals. Talking in those terms is just bullshit, it’s a weird worldview, one that especially Germans should be ashamed for expressing.

But that arrogance is common. It’s annoying.


Most of the people that where 20 in ~1930 are not alive today. I'm a 17 yrs old German and I can't feel responsible for what some people I dont even know have done a hundred years ago. That would be as stupid as the concept of original sin....


You should feel responsible. You should be willing to learn something. I certainly do.


Have I killed Jews? Did my dad? My Grandfather? Nope. My family lived outside the big cities the entire time.

Even so. If your Grandfather killed someone before you even were born. How could you feel responsible? It's not like you were able to whisper: "kill him! Kill him!"

But of course we can learn from that tragedy. Everyone can. But learning something and being responsible are two completely different things. It's ok if you say Germany's responsible though.


The lesson of the Holocaust is "look at the nasty things that Humans can do. Don't do that." It is absolutely not "look at the nasty things that Germans can do." The more that people make the latter argument, the less they've learned the learned the lesson of the Holocaust.

NB.: I'm of Jewish ancestry and have counted several Holocaust survivors among my friends. This shit is personal for me.


>At the risk of invoking common sense: Things that you did nearly a hundred years ago are not especially relevant to the discussion of what you're doing today.

For a person, yes, for a country, not so much. A country has "continuity of the state" (if I recall the term correctly).

Besides that legal difference (under international law), what a country has done in the past cannot be erased from the country. Even if all the old perpetrators are now dead, the deed remains within the country's history, and affects relations within its population (descendants of the perpetrators and/or the victims), relations with other countries if it was a foreign affairs issue, etc.

For example you have freed the black slaves. You also stopped segregation (in the bloody 60's !!!). That doesn't mean that there is not a friction between black and white people in the country still, based among other things on historical reasons.

And it doesn't mean that the black people that live today have it as if those things did not happen at all. Their past also affects their future. For example, a guy that arrived as a poor _white_ immigrant in the US in the twenties, is far more likely to have made it (and his descendants) than a poor black guy freed from some Southern cotton picking farm and left with nothing + plus the prejudice of the era + plus unfavorable laws (Jim Crow etc). Which kinda explains why blacks are the disproportionate majority of the prison population in the US.

Besides that, what a country has done in the past is probably indicative of the idea the country has for itself and it's role. That kind of state and populace thinking doesn't die with a generation or two. For example the US likes to play global cop, Germany has several times brought war to Europe (and the world at large), other countries had colonial history for 3-4 centuries and continue to feel "entitled" to the countries they occupied in the past, etc etc.


>A country has "continuity of the state" (if I recall the term correctly).

If you would recall correctly, you would know that there's a difference between a country and the people in it.


yes you can, you just don't want to acknowledge it. unless you don't speak fluent english, in which case I apologize.


Civilized is not exactly a well defined term. It's essentially a subjective criticism.


"Civilized is not exactly a well defined term. It's essentially a subjective criticism."

Actually, it is quite well-defined. Here you go:

"1. Having a highly developed society and culture. 2. Showing evidence of moral and intellectual advancement; humane, ethical, and reasonable: terrorist acts that shocked the civilized world. 3. Marked by refinement in taste and manners; cultured; polished."

So, either America has no:

1: Highly developed society and culture 2: Evidence of moral and intellectual development or 3: Refinement in taste and manners

Now, which of those do you think we Americans would take the least offense to, at being lumped into a board category of "uncivilized".

I find it striking that there are people taking the time to make pot-shots at America on a technology site. We need only look back a short period in history to see that civility is a very recent trend in most parts of the world, and especially so in Europe. It would be most beneficial to all of us to politely ask how we can improve each others' lives, rather than goading people into defensive postures.


In my dictionary, "civilized" means "living in cities".


Yes, and "digital" means "done with fingers". Linguistic essentialism is not a very helpful communicative strategy.


Ever heard of a Digital Rectal Exam?

And the origin of the word is very helpful: Behaviours we think of as civilized are precisely those which are necessary in order for cities to function.


Buy a new one.


>So, either America has no: 1: Highly developed society and culture 2: Evidence of moral and intellectual development or 3: Refinement in taste and manners

Well, America is not the pinnacle of western (or any other) civilization, is it now?

Wasn't it like 40 years ago that black people couldn't sit in front at the bus? Or 5 years ago that you elected an incompetent idiot for a president for the SECOND time? Or like 30 years ago when you bombed the shit out of countries in Asia and poisoned the places with chemical agents? Or like 60 years before when you dropped two atomic bombs on civilians? Or like today that you still have the death penalty?


Firstly, I never claimed America to be the pinnacle of civilization, and I don't see anyone else doing the same. I simply stated, that it's rather offensive to come in here and cast all Americans as uncivilized because one disagrees with how one police force operates related to another.

Whether you consider a particular elected official of a nation to be of your measure of specific intelligence quotient you desire does not either speak to the general civilized nature of a particular society. Are we really going to rate individual leaders? Where shall we start in Europe? There's so much wonderful material to work with...

We could talk about each of those incidents you mentioned, and the role that Europe played in each of them, we could play these tit-for-tat arguments that will result in no change. What does that achieve? Will you try forever to make all of us feel bad about where we were born? What's so lofty about that position? Why here, why now?


> So, either America has no: [...]

If I would keep making fun of American exceptionalism I would propose striking the "either". :-)

> It would be most beneficial to all of us to politely ask how we can improve each others' lives [...]

How about stopping to kill people for a start? :-) Civilized countries managed to resist that urge decades ago, why not the US?

___

So, don't take these remarks serious. It just amuses me how many people behave as if they are personally offended. C'mon guys, it is just an arbitrary line on a map. :-)


That's a pretty weak defense of your police state. Care to elaborate?


I would suggest you review my comments on HN so that you can decide on:

- My nationality

- My general political tendencies


It would be difficult to track discharges in the USA. Tens of millions of Americans go hunting and skeet shooting, and go to firing ranges, etc. Unless the discharge is illegal and results in injury or property damage, it's not really an issue which you would want to spend money tracking.


Sorry, to clarify, I meant "firearms discharged in the line of duty by police officers", as per the original article.


Oh yes, that makes sense. My apologies for misunderstanding your point. I would have thought that law-enforcement discharges were tracked as they are often fatal. If not at the federal level, then certainly the state level.


I think he meant discharges by LEOs, not private citizens. And we're probably only talking about during duty shooting, not target practice for the german figure - I know I send at least 100 rounds down the range when I go shooting.


I hate to use anecdotal evidence to support your claim, but here it goes:

http://reason.com/blog/2012/05/11/california-woman-permanent...


A bit perspective:

Germany has around 82 million people.

Estimated 45 Million shooting weapons are in possession. Many of them illegal (for example people inherited weapons from their parents but did not register them, weapons were imported from East Europe or illegally left behind by the leaving soviet army).

The ownnership is highly regulated. If you want to buy a weapon, you need a permission a Waffenschein and/or Waffenbesitzkarte (owner registration). A 'Waffenschein' is a permission to carry a gun in public. This permission is usually only given to Police, professional bodyguards or similar. A Waffenbesitzkarte allows you to have a weapon for sports (or similar) and you are only allowed to carry the weapon in a closed and sealed transport box without ammunition. To get a Waffenbeitzkarte is not that easy - for example if you are under 25 you need a psychological check.

Thus the only shooting weapons one ever sees in public is usually from the police or a forester.

Around 20000 crimes are done with weapons. This is 0.3% of all crimes. At 4500 crimes there is some shooting.

In the statistics cited by DER SPIEGEL ( http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/polizei-schoss-2011-se... ) it is mentioned that the police shot 8812 times at animals. Almost all these cases were animals who had serious injuries due to traffic accidents.

But many Germany use weapons for sports. For entertainment see this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyq90LEZe4k


lived for 3 years in germany; i was extremely clubbing. Forget shooting you don't see much fighting neither. In comparison, in my one year in England, I witnessed 5 club fights, and in Russia two gun fights. It seems mostly an attitude of the society towards violence and guns. On the other side, in Germany, you frequently see your neighbor calling the police if you make some noise.


In my experience, violence in the UK tends to be concentrated at very specific times and places - generally city and town centers between 11pm and 3am on a Friday and Saturday night.

Avoid these times and places and you'll never see a fight, go to the worst of these places and there will be multiple fights. As for culture - where I grew up (70s/80s, small town, North of Scotland, fishing and oil as main employers) there was a lot of fist fights but I never heard or saw anyone using a knife - I suspect that has changed.


> violence in the UK tends to be concentrated at very specific times and places

> but I never heard or saw anyone using a knife - I suspect that has changed.

Not disagreeing with you, but just wanted to say that Glasgow is the "knife crime capitol of Europe".

Here's a map showing knife crimes, and arrests. (Read the numbers for offences.) There are about 570,000 people in Glasgow.

(http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=201273553307...)


The 'knife crime capital of Europe' thing is largely an invention of the tabloids. There have been a lot of posession offences reported, but in large part this is because of more police stop&search. What's more interesting is the violent crime statistics, and the way the press gets its knife/murder capital of europe headlines by abusing them.

One way they do this is by picking numbers from different reports, and combining them in ways that don't make sense. For example: one of the Daily Record's 'murder capital' articles was based on taking the number of murders in the greater Glasgow area, and dividing it by the population of the central Glasgow area (590,000 instead of 1.2m!) and then feigning surprise when the murder rate seems to be double the European average.

They've also used changes in the very small numbers involved to generate headlines; a difference of 5 murders from one year to another doesn't sound much, but it can when the change is 25%! (straight to the front page)

While there is violence - particularly around the Old Firm football matches and when the nightclubs spill onto the streets - its not as different as the local rags would have you believe; their job is selling papers, and fearmongering does it.


I spent almost 2 years in Glasgow. I read the frightening headlines before coming there, the headlines don't match the reality. Most of the violence occurs in the East side of town and on weekends around certain clubs. Frankly, there are many times I feel less safe throughout San Francisco. Glasgow has much fewer panhandlers and your really have to try hard to get into the more dangerous parts of town, unlike SF where 2 or 3 blocks in the wrong direction can create a fairly uncomfortable situation.


There are considerable cultural differences between Glasgow and the rest of Scotland. For example, I grew up in rural Moray and had never encountered sectarianism until I moved to Edinburgh - and it's very tame here compared to the West.

Glasgow was also infamous for organised crime and territorial gang violence:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangs_in_the_United_Kingdom#Gla...


I think the UKs main problem is alcohol abuse, which has a tendency to fuel violence - thankfully the violence is mostly limited to pointy things due to guns being banned.


It's not so much alcohol consumption per se as the culture. In the UK, and in general in much of historically protestant northern Europe, there is a very deeply ingrained culture where Bad Things will happen if you drink; the flip side of that is that if you do drink, it is much more socially acceptable to go out and get in a fight (after all, that's what you do when you're drunk, right?). In many Mediterranean cultures people do not consume significantly less alcohol (normally in the form of wine, of course), but people are generally more relaxed about this, and as a consequence there is less binge drinking and fewer drunken brawls.

Here is a report on this: http://www.sirc.org/publik/drinking7.html, or, for a less technical explanation, see Kate Fox's Watching the English


I grew up in a Mediterranean country and live in Northern Europe now and I think your observations about the different attitudes towards alcohol are very accurate.

Drinking is very common in Southern Europe, but there feels to be a very negative attitude towards drinking to the point where you lose control and do utterly stupid things. In Northern Europe, I have witnessed young people in many settings openly sharing stories of binge drinking, getting in fights, getting kicked out of bars etc. and laughing about them. When I was back in my hometown and shared some party stories they were generally encountered with shock.


Yeah, I've seen both sides as well; in the Netherlands we have this 'coma drinking' thing going on which is young people drinking until they pass out/fall into a coma. In southern Spain, people on average, during the week/weekend drink far far more than Dutch people drink, however they don't binge. It's just drinking from morning to night a few liquors, beers and bottles of wine, every day. While in NL a lot of people drink nothing all week and then go insane in the weekend. In the UK that's even worse. No idea why. Anyone?


There's also a food culture there and alcohol gtts consumed with a meal, whereas in the UK people scorn having food when it takes up drinking time - "eating is cheating" I've heard from many a folk.


In many Mediterranean cultures people do not consume significantly less alcohol (normally in the form of wine, of course), but people are generally more relaxed about this, and as a consequence there is less binge drinking and fewer drunken brawls.

Unfortunately, that seems to be changing, both here in Portugal and, from what I can tell, also in Spain. Newer generations have changed their drinking patterns from wine to distilled drinks and from the couple of daily glasses to the full bottle on weekends, with all the issues (including health related) that carries.


It's a nice theory, but falls to pieces in say traditionally Catholic Ireland (history of powerful temperance movements also) and a cultural approach to alcohol which is if anything even more damaging than Britain's.


Ireland is a temperance culture as well (not surprisingly). Protestantism is not a necessary factor here, it's just that historically temperance cultures have tended to appear in Protestant countries, along with pietistic movements. I don't know enough about this to say whether religion has played a major role or if it's just a coincidence.


"In the UK, and in general in much of historically protestant northern Europe, there is a very deeply ingrained culture where Bad Things will happen if you drink"

Possibly the most inaccurate statement ever made on HN. :-)


Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not sure what you mean :). It's not like I'm making this stuff up, social anthropologists have known about "temperance cultures" for a long time. Ever notice how Mediterranean countries don't have a history of mass temperance movements, which have been very strong in Britain, the US and Scandinavia? Do you think it's a freak coincidence?


I'd hardly describe temperance as ever having been the majority view across the UK. Indeed, even when districts were allowed to vote to be "dry" (under the Temperance (Scotland) Act 1913) relatively few did so.

Interestingly enough, one of the villages that did, Findochty, was close to where I grew up - and they only stopped being dry relatively recently.

So I would personally regard "temperance" as being the view of a small, but highly active, minority. We don't have a temperance culture but a drinking culture.


Sure, temperance has never been a majority view. But that is not the issue: the issue is that the culture is conducive to viewing alcohol consumption as something that will inevitably lead to the breakdown of social order. This is something that Mediterranean countries tend not to have.


"This is something that Mediterranean countries tend not to have."

Last time I checked a lot of Mediterranean countries frown upon the consumption of alcohol - even if they tolerate visiting Europeans consuming it in large quantities.


I think the op is making a joke about other things that happen when drunk...


Really? You use an article from an alcohol industry PR group to try to found your assertion that alcohol consumption doesn't impair judgement and raise the likelihood of destructive behavior?


Of course it does, it would be preposterous to contend otherwise. That doesn't mean the findings are null and void.


>Really? You use an article from an alcohol industry PR group to try to found your assertion that alcohol consumption doesn't impair judgement and raise the likelihood of destructive behavior?

No, mr knee-jerk-reaction, he used to it show something entirely different, namely different cultural ways to handling the issue.

Your "alcohol-is-the-devil" reaction is part of the problem, and indicative of the American/protestant attitude.


But they do seem to consider having a regular riot with the police as almost a tradition.


I'm led to believe that societally they are repressing their anger and aggression in reaction to WWII. The lack of bar fights and the number of shootings are strangely low. I think this is the most compelling explanation. It is known that the atrocities committed by their people during WWII weighs heavily on their psyche.


Despite what you may think, the war crimes during ww2 were not the result of a culture unique to Germany. For example, in my country, Holland, relatively more jews were killed, because the dutch people gave them less shelter than the german peope did, and were more likely to rat them out. Nazis got to power in Germany, but as a cultural movemet was a lot larger than just germany. And nobody cared about the jews: for example, not a sinle rail road track was targetted by any of the thousands of bombings by allied forces.

What happened should be in every euopean nations consience, and generally is.


Yes but I believe that psychologically these other European countries and peoples aren't as haunted by the identity of being vicious killers or conquerers. They see themselves as mere sidelines players and thereby sidestep the psychological burden that looms over the Germans, of being active and causal forces in the war and in the murdering of millions.


You do realize that the overwhelmingly vast majority of Germany citizens were not alive during World War II, right?


Are the numbers strangely low? In many parts of Europe the numbers are similar.

Generally in the German society there is a wish for security. The local authorities are made responsible for it. Other forms security are similar important: Not being poor, staying heathly, having enough to eat, ... These are also typically the more important topics at elections.

There is some background influence from WWII. The wish for security (not the security where the individual is responsible) and good government is a reaction. Another reaction is the work ethic.


That's probably the dumbest thing I've read this year and the year is far from over. Congratulations.


Again, comments like these are why the down vote was created. Please be constructive with your feedback. Where do you think my assessment falls short?


It falls short by being rather incredible to start with — it's just plain weird to imagine that drunk Germans are spoiling to fight but are stopped by the thought of National Socialism — and lacking evidentiary support to lend it any additional credibility.


Down voting without providing a response to my comment or a without furthering the conversation in any way is the type of meaningless emotional response that down voting was meant to combat in the first place. You have not helped the conversation in any way and have not provided me with a reason to reconsider my assessment.


I did not downvote your original comment (only this one), however, here is why I think it might have been downvoted:

a) Your comment does not make sense: People only very few people who commited any war crimes in WW2 are even alive anymore. Germans these days learn about it in history class. While it still has some influence on their attitude towards nationalism, it is unlikely that it has any influence on their general aggressiveness.

b) This is a sensitive issue. It might have been considered offensive.


> Estimated 45 Million shooting weapons are in possession.

Why are you suggesting that police should only shoot someone who has a gun?


Why are you suggesting that I'm suggesting that?


Because you start posted about gun ownership in Germany in response to "German police shot N people".

What is the relationship between German gun ownership and the number of people shot by German police?


Two things... First, as a German, we do have discussions about police violence. But they mostly relate to using water throwers and brute force. Demonstrations in Berlin are known to look like a cliché British football match sometimes.

Second, I looked up the list of countries by firearm deaths. Any Finnish folks here to explain what's going on there?! I didn't expect any European country to be so high up on the list.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-re...


I'm from Finland, maybe I can give some background.

Finland has a high rate of gun ownership due to popularity of hunting and farmers, who use guns to keep unwanted wild animals at bay. In addition to that, there was a fair amount of guns left over from WWII, and there was a well-known case where guns where stashed away to form a resistance militia in case of foreign invasion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapons_Cache_Case).

In addition to that, Finland's southernmost tip is roughly at 60 degrees northern latitude, roughly at the level of Anchorage, Alaska. That means that 3 months of the year, this is a cold, dark and desolate place where the only thing you can do is get drunk and wave guns at your friends and/or yourself in a state of delirium tremensis.

Also note that firearms-related suicide is far more common than homicide, in that Wikipedia statistic it's about 6 times more suicides than homicides. (The Finns prefer to stab each other and shoot themselves).

It is a very rare occasion that a police officer fires a gun at a person in Finland.


"a cold, dark and desolate place where the only thing you can do is get drunk and wave guns at your friends and/or yourself in a state of delirium tremensis"

Luckily there are computer games now :-)


Or you can start programming on an operating system during that period, like a certain Linus did.


Or you can move to a warmer and lighter place, like tens of thousands of Finns did. Even Linus.


Portland? Only barely.


Well, it's more south than Berlin, where I'm currently living. Even Berlin has 2-3 more months of summer and no completely black winter compared to Helsinki.


High suicide rate?

   Finland	6.86	0.86	5.78	0.12	1994	Krug 1998
   N. Ireland	6.82	5.24	1.34	0.12	1994	Krug 1998
   Switzerland	6.4	0.58	5.61	0.13	1994	Krug 1998
(Country, total firearm related death rate, homicides, suicides, accidental, date, source.)

I'm avoiding politics - here's a link about the Northern Ireland "troubles" to explain the high murder rate.

(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/5097948.stm)


Interesting shift between homicides and suicides. Suicide by offending an armed drunk?


Well, it says most of them are suicides. That's certainly true. Most of the rest are homicides: Finland as a country is filled with weapons (registered for shooting at the range or for hunting) and when you mix that with excess alcohol consumption there's always someone who gets pissed at a family member, a relative, or a drinking buddy and as things escalate someone goes to get his hunting rifle.


The UK, with a population (~60m) close to Germany, has very few incidents a year where police discharge firearms.

Stats from 2000-2007 show between 5 and 11 incidents where firearms were discharged per year: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.homeo...

Unfortunately, when they do use them they do so to kill innocent foreigners, execution style (which then gets largely swept under a rug): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Jean_Charles_de_Meneze...


> Unfortunately, when they do use them they do so to kill innocent foreigners, execution style (which then gets largely swept under a rug): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Jean_Charles_de_Meneze....

Not to defend those involved, but that was a single tragic incident that occurred at a time and place of very high tension (being about two weeks after the 7th July 2005 London bombings [0]). Your use of the plural ('they do so to kill innocent foreigners') implies a pattern - unfairly, to my mind.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_bombings_of_7_July_2005


One thing I found very surprising when moving from Germany to the UK was that your average UK "beat cop" doesn't carry a firearm. They call in armed police when needed, but this seems to often result in delays in pursuing criminals and sometimes escalation where armed criminals are given the time to take hostages and/or barricade themselves in.

On the other hand, when seeing some recent encounters with these beat cops, I was glad they weren't armed. Overall I got the impression that the UK police forces suffer from a training or selection problem that wasn't apparent in Germany.


Firearm use varies throughout the UK. For example in Northern Ireland all Police carry firearms.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_use_of_firearms_in_the_U...


You used the word 'often'. Please substantiate this.


So you are claiming ("when they do use them they do so to kill innocent foreigners, execution style") the UK police make a point of discharging firearms to kill innocent foreigners? Is this some kind of policy to cull them? Tourists are annoying, sure, but they bring in money. Killing them seems kind of idiotic, as does your comment.


Although the URL says Yahoo, this article originally comes The Atlantic Wire, a sister site of The Atlantic. Content aggregators on major news sites cheapen the experience. It's bad enough that nearly every news publication merely regurgitates AP stories, but to also outsource your op-ed takes away the one defining characteristic you have left.

Cocerning the content, this article is literally dripping with contempt for America, and makes no attempt to actually find the story behind the statistics other than to postulate that America is "gun crazy." Poor reporting by a relatively inexperienced writer (who happens to be from NYC, which may explain his stance).

Finally, this story really has zero bearing on anything HN related, other than the fact that it throws around a little statistical trivia. What gives?

(edited for clarity, typing in this text field on an iPad is torture)


Anyone know WHY this is?

Germany is certainly not crime free, so some possibilities that come to mind:

1. Perhaps German criminals, for whatever reason, are more docile than American criminals and give up when asked to so there is little need for the police to use violence.

2. Perhaps German criminals aren't as well armed as American criminals, and so when the police try to arrest them the criminals know they are outgunned and give up.

3. Perhaps German police are not very good at tracking down armed criminals and so the are few chance for the police to use guns.

If I had to guess, I'd guess that #2 is the most likely of those three possibilities, but I've surely not thought of all the possible explanations.

Without some insight into why they fire their guns so rarely, this statistic is just interesting trivia.


I have a different theory, having lived in both places. Police in America seem to be willing to escalate a confrontation or "chase" to almost any level in order to prevent a bad guy from getting away. Where I lived (near DC) a police officer stood in front of a car to prevent an unarmed teenager from leaving an IHOP without paying the bill, when the kids wouldn't stop, he shot up the car, killing a passenger(1).

Sometimes, when the offense is minor its OK to let the bad guy get away. Firing repeatedly at a moving vehicle in a crowded parking lot is never ok, even if someone might get away with murder.

Polizei seemed much more calmly methodical and much less cowboyish. I can't imagine this situation occurring in Germany.

(1)http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02...


I think you're right. It's a common trope in German crime shows on TV to see the police chase a dangerous criminal on foot with their gun drawn and then watch in frustration as they get away - but not shoot at them.

> Sometimes, when the offense is minor its OK to let the bad guy get away.

Especially since, with a bit of methodical work, you usually have a good chance of catching them later.


Indeed. If only cars had some sort of unique identifier attached to them somewhere easily visible so you could simply discover after the fact who owned them...


In the Netherlands you have to, before you are even allowed to shoot at someone, point the gun in the air, call out "Halt or i'll shoot!" and shoot in the air which you have to repeat 3 times. We had some hilarious TV about that.


I think it is the same for german police. I.e. you at least have to shot in the air once and call out "stop or i will shoot you!". Obviously, this is not necessary if the life of the officer or someone else is at risk.


In Poland too. A few years ago police man had to shout "Stop or I'll shoot.", then shoot 3 times in the air, then policeman could shoot in the legs, and only then shoot to kill.

People made fun of this, because when criminal has a gun, he won't be shooting in the air 3 times, nor targeting policeman legs, so law was changed to be less strict about cops shooting.

But we still have strict regulations about "allowed defence". For example courts judged a few times, that man that shot burglar with legal gun he had in his house was guilty of "overstepping allowed defence", because burglar only had knife. It's ridiculus IMHO.

Still - I've never heard or seen a real gun or knife fight in my life, and neither had anybody I know (or at least they had not told me about that). I think it's general tendency, that gun crimes and homicides in general are much less frequent in Europe.


Obviously; if something is really threatening for yourself or others then of course. But this is not very common as far as I can see. Fleeing the scene is often not a threatening / deadly force situation.


Isn't shooting in the air potentially dangerous, since the bullet (assuming straight up in an empty space) will return to the ground with the same velocity it was fired at?


No, terminal velocity will limit the fall speed to be much less

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1199/can-a-bullet-f...


That link does not say that it's not dangerous. It is less dangerous than a bullet fired at close range, and it is not as likely to be lethal, but it still can be lethal, or cause serious bodily harm, and therefore it is still very dangerous.

Furthermore not all warning shots fired into the air are fired at high enough angles that the bullets decelerate to terminal velocity before hitting something.

Even if it reaches terminal velocity and doesn't hit anyone, in an urban area it can easily hit someone's property and cause property damage to roofs windows or walls.


True, but a bullet falling at terminal velocity may still kill:

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-12-20/news/30540094_1_a...

Edit: this particular bullet would have been on a ballistic trajectory and would have retained a significant amount of its original velocity.


Only in a vacuum, otherwise it's the terminal velocity IIRC it's much less than the firing speed for bullets.


"In the case of a bullet fired at sufficiently close to a vertical angle to result in a non-ballistic trajectory, the bullet would tumble, lose its spin, and fall at a much slower speed due to terminal velocity and is therefore rendered less than lethal on impact (the Busted rating). However, if a bullet is fired at a lower angle allowing for a ballistic trajectory (a far more likely case), it will maintain its spin and will retain enough energy to be lethal on impact (the Plausible rating). Because of this potentiality, firing a gun into the air is illegal in most U.S. states, and even in the states where it is legal, it is not recommended by the police. Also the MythBusters were able to identify two people who had been injured by falling bullets (fired from approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) away, and hence at a lower angle), one of them fatally (the Confirmed rating). To date, this is the only myth to receive all three ratings at the same time." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythBusters_(2006_season)#Episo...


Still somewhat dangerous, and the reason why celebratory gunfire, which is rather customary in some countries, is now frowned upon by the authorities.


Yes, it is dangerous, and totally breaks basic firearm safety rules.


Germany is so densely populated that it might also just be a lot harder for criminals to find a good hiding place without being noticed.


Well said. It seems as though an intellectual shift has occurred in law enforcement training where de-escalation is no longer a priority and police officers are now more prone to escalate. Part of this might be due to the introduction of less-than-lethal and (supposedly) non-lethal weapons.


Police officers in Germany in most cases when someone points a gun at them wont even draw their gun, but try to talk to the person, or take cover and call in extra support.


Well said, I think you've hit the nail on the head. Here in Ireland (republic of) I've heard, anecdotally, that the police will quite frequently give chase to joyriders and people speeding, but will very quickly give up the chase if they don't think it'll be reined in quickly. So police in Europe generally may be willing to let people go to de-escalate a situation and save lives, of both suspects and innocent bystanders.


I don't believe it is that, because police shoot people who are armed with knives, tree branches, and unarmed on a pretty regular basis... all of which are readily available in Germany.

There was a homeless person here in San Diego because he had a tree branch and looked like he was going to use it against the officers (the person was mentally ill). Not to mention the guy who jumped the White House fence who had a butterknife (the President wasn't in the country at the time). The butterknife guy was shot and killed, since he didn't follow orders to put the knife down.

I believe it is a lack of respect for human life along with the fact that these cases have made it to the Superme Court which ruled for the officers, if the officer feel they are in danger, they can shoot to kill. And they do so.

My guess is German police offers don't care if a person has a tree branch, butterknife, stones or whatever they go in and make the arrest without just shooting the person. There is some risk of personal injury but probably nothing that 10 officers with billy-clubs can't handle.


> My guess is German police offers don't care if a person has a tree branch, butterknife, [...]

I'm pretty sure policy is if the guy is holding a knife, you warn them and draw your gun. Then if the guy comes at you you've got the possibility to fire to avoid injury or death.

While use of guns by the police is extremely scrutinized (it's often big in the news when it happens). The guns are a last resort in the really messy situations when there's no other way out. (And you have to prove that later on)


As far as I'm aware though, disarming someone with a knife is relatively easy if you're highly trained and armoured, and they are literally "coming at you," ie. you have plenty of notice.

It all comes down to the value of human life: how much personal effort and risk are you willing to go to in order to protect a murderous criminal? Should you chance a little light judo to make him drop the blade? Or should you just put a cap through his eye socket and go to lunch?

I know which category I'm more willing to be policed by.


I have some knowledge of this I don't entirely agree.

I once wanted to be a police officer, and went through police training in Florida. I also currently study Aikido and Kali (Eskrima). I have practiced many knife disarm techniques and some defensive/offensive knife use. Taking a knife from someone who is actively trying to hurt or kill you with it and has even minimal training in how to use it for that purpose is extremely difficult. You will almost certainly be cut, and a cut to the arm can disable your hand. A baton improves the odds, but it's still very risky. Most police body armor does not provide significant protection from knives, nor does it cover the arms, legs or neck, which are excellent targets for a knife.

Disarming or disabling a knife-wielding attacker requires tools that can be used from a long distance. Pepper spray and Tasers are good less-lethal options, especially when multiple officers are present. These should be tried in most situations before going to a firearm, but if a suspect charges an officer with a knife there isn't time to wait and see. The range of a Taser happens to be the same (21 feet) as the distance most people can cover in the amount of time it takes for most officers to draw and fire a pistol. If the Taser fails or misses, it doesn't hold a second shot and can't be reloaded quickly. Most of the time, I'd want the officer to risk trying the Taser, but it's not reasonable to ask someone to go up against a knife unarmed.


Even though the UK does have a problem with knife crime, 82% of the police here do not want to be routinely armed:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10260298

And personally, I wouldn't be keen on the police being armed all the time - I suspect it would make them a lot less approachable.


> "I suspect it would make them a lot less approachable."

As a law abiding American, I can confirm that statement. There are a lot of scary looking characters that you can see while strolling through my city but none of them make me as nervous as police officers.


I often see policemen helping tourists with directions and things - I even once saw some policemen replacing a punctured tyre for what looked like Japanese tourists in an obvious rental car.

[NB I'm in Edinburgh which is usually full of tourists so I suspect the police are particularly well behaved here!]


I agree, if it's an instant decision to avoid a knife in the ribs then nobody could think ill of someone for instinctively protecting their life.

It's more things like this I'm talking about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpjFsmTDWuQ

It's obviously an extreme example but it illustrates the point, as does that business on the white house lawn.

(Also I'd contend that in practice most knife-wielding assailants, far from being even moderately trained, are probably clueless and scared.)


Still, you don't want to bet your life that the assailant doesn't know how to wield a knife.

I don't agree with shooting anyone who is brandishing a knife, but trying to disarm them is a horrible idea as well. As others have mentioned, using beanbag guns or a taser or tear gas or rubber bullets or just about any less-lethal option (with other officers ready to shoot if the assailant charges) is the best solution.


Below 10yards a knife can be more dangerous than a gun. There is a video of a mentally ill brasilian with a machete sorrounded by 4 armed officers. He goes bersech and kills one or two and wounds the others, all without recieving a shot. Even if you shot someone but is not an incapacitating shot, it is possible that the attacker could inflict severe injuries on the cop. This is the reason of the huge quantities of shots to a single suspect in USA (better sorry than dead is the way they think about it). For example one famous case in florida, where an injured ( by a shot fired by an officer) suspect was able to kill 3 or 4 FBI agents( they changed the caliber from 9mm to .40 after this incident to increase the stopping power). So now they are encouraged to shot till the suspect doesn't move any more (15 shots or more). Here in Spain is very extrange for police to have to shoot. But I don't think is only due to the restrictions of the police( very similar to the german ones). I think that the felons know that even if they are arrested and condemned, they are not going to spend a long time in prison (prison sentences are not very long, some time they seem a joke), and therefore it doesn't make sense ot worsen the charges by atacking or murdering someone. Also jails in Spain have a very open system of benefits and permits for good behaviour.

IMHO police violence is reactive to crime violence, which is reactive to punishment toughtness. Is a growing violence spiral that can be stoped if there is a change in the way punishment is understood ( after all you must grand an honorable exit even to your worst enemy).


Indeed; all police are trained in martial arts of some sort; disarming someone with a knife is usually easy. If you have been trained, you can see if your assailant is trained as well by how he holds the knife and the way he looks, moves and runs/walks. I'm talking knife here, not tree branch.

Then you have (again, you are trained) the option to shoot him in the head, heart, stomach all of which are usually quite lethal OR you can hit the leg, knee, shoulder, arm. Why use LETHAL force? Actually, in almost all cases of police violence in the US; why did they use lethal force and not just cap someone's knee? Unless the person is on PCP (or a zombie; note that in Resident Evil when the first zombies come in, they first shoot in the knee; it's obvious right? Basic training?) (which, tiring to say, you can see if you are trained) she/he will drop their weapon (even guns mind you) if their knee is capped or shoulder is pulverized...


> disarming someone with a knife is usually easy > you have the option to shoot him in the head, heart, stomach all of which are usually quite lethal OR you can hit the leg, knee, shoulder, arm

You've been reading too much Martial Arts Wow literature. Taking a knife off someone is highly likely to get you cut, badly. Police don't aim for 'non lethal' parts of the body, because if you're using the gun, your life is being threatened, and you are using deadly force already - trying to hit anything other than the torso under these conditions (especially if the target is moving, or any real distance away) while your heart is pounding and your hands are shaking is very very difficult.


Yeah that's the whole point and problem; seems US police (and other gun bearers) seems to think their lives are threatened far too easily. That's the only stories we hear in the EU; obviously there will be plenty of cases were deadly force is needed. But if you feel your life is being threatened by unarmed people running away from a scene... ...

And the martial arts wow depends on the case; I have only been in knife fights were the knife was pulled by a drunk guy. No problem taking that away. I would imagine this is often the case; depending on the drug it would not be hard, especially with a baton in hand. No guns needed.

The stories I read here today, in the article and generally in the EU press about US shootings just show shoddy police work though. But that's because it's press; they don't really want to publish things that go well; only things that go bad.

> trying to hit anything other than the torso under these conditions (especially if the target is moving, or any real distance away) while your heart is pounding and your hands are shaking is very very difficult.

Real distance away? Talking about someone coming at you with a knife in hand...

Moving => yes but towards you and I would like to bet most (by far) people will run at you in a straight line when attacking.

But yes, of course, if you fear for your or someone else's life, you would shoot to kill. My whole point is that in the US it seems (i'm being careful here not to go with all public opinion :) police is far to trigger happy also in cases were it makes no sense at all.

Edit: also if you read 'ajuc' his comment about Poland (and it's the same in NL and DE and probably the rest of EU); you have to shoot at the legs first. It's how we are raised to think and when there are police shootings here often (mostly) people are just wounded.


You overestimate the chance of successfully disarming someone with a knife without receiving serious wounds.

You also overestimate the martial arts training most cops receive. If they're interested in martial arts on their own, they might be very good. Otherwise, a few months of training at any martial arts style that teaches immediately practical aspects like holds, joint locks, grappling, etc. will teach more than what cops know. It's not practical. Police procedure is designed to prevent officers from ever needing to get into serious hand to hand fights with criminals.

Most cops do not shoot violent criminals in the knees or shoulders because they are not that accurate.

In the Diallo shooting [1], 4 NYC police officers hit Diallo 19 times out of 41 rounds fired.

If a cop is a good shot, and is not under pressure, he or she can hit a suspect's knee. Most shootings occur under high pressure, and most cops are not good shots. Most cops qualify periodically as required under police regulations and that's all the firearms training they care about.

[1] http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/peopl...


Then you have (again, you are trained) the option to shoot him in the head, heart, stomach all of which are usually quite lethal OR you can hit the leg, knee, shoulder, arm. Why use LETHAL force?

Because a gun, by definition, is lethal force.

Because shooting to wound is a fancy way of saying 'shoot to miss'.

Look: you train to shoot at center mass because that's what it takes to kill a person. If you don't intend to kill that person, then you have no business drawing a weapon.


Yeah, my point exactly. But if you did draw, you can still shoot at the legs (as is normal in the EU for police).


I don't know for EU police. I know what is practical, what works.

With a pistol, shooting at anything but center mass is foolish.


Shooting to kill is under no circumstance allowed in Germany or Austria (for police and civilians) and it doesn't matter if it is more practical to aim for center mass and fire 10 times, because it's law over here.

If an aspiring police officer is not willing to submit to those rules, he or she will have to look for a different job.

It's easy for you to say that this is foolish, but in the end much less tragedies occur, because neither the offender, nor the police officer will feel like their lives are threatened in those heated situations. They'll catch the criminal anyways later on.


No it's not. 12 of Germany's 16 states allow officers to shoot to kill to prevent loss of life. Good to know most German or Austrian citizens are about as ignorant of German law as American citizens are of ours.

I do wonder where you got that idea, though. You can post the document, I speak German.


Sorry, my fault, you are right that it is allowed in some states. But my wrong perception came from the reality how weapons are actually used here. And aside from the most extreme situations, like someone who takes hostages and threatens to kill them, people are not shot with the intention to kill. (I've looked that up after you corrected me, and the law is very specific about the cases where it is allowed)

What I know is that when I asked years ago about the rules when it is allowed to use a weapon, that I was told, that in most cases it ends bad for the defender, because courts accept the use of fireweapons as justified in rare situations.

So shooting at burglar or somebody attacking you without a gun will cause you major troubles if the attacker should die.

It's just heavily discouraged here to solve any problem by aggression. Even for slapping or insulting someone publicly you'll be held accountable for that in court.


So shooting at burglar or somebody attacking you without a gun will cause you major troubles if the attacker should die.

IANAL, and it varies by jurisdiction, but I believe the general standard for using deadly force is ..

'Not allowed to use deadly force against any person except as necessary in self-defense or the defense of another when they have reason to believe they or another are in danger of death or grievous bodily harm'

Paraphrasing from memory.

In other words, I can employ deadly force against an attacker if I believe he could kill me. Doesn't matter if he's armed with a club, a knife, or a bazooka.

I can't shoot a guy if he's running away.

This seems prudent, but that (he smiled) might be a cultural thing.

Where I grew up they used to say 'God made man, Sam Colt made them equal' and I guess I still believe it.


It's easy for you to say that this is foolish, but in the end much less tragedies occur,

My issue with this is that it abstracts 'gun' into 'non-lethel tool'.

Culture and law aside, a gun exists for one thing, and it's only good for one thing, and that is to kill a person.

Your laws can say otherwise, but that law is an ass.

But hey - your country, your rules.


I'm not saying that guns are strictly non lethal tools, but there are different uses besides killing people. You could shoot the tires of a fleeing car, or you could stop a person by shooting into his leg. (a civilian probably wont be able to pull this off successfully in stressful situations) Or use it for sport or hunting.

It does depend on a countries situation and culture, how excessively such weapons are used, and in which situations. When a countries population on average tends to not escalate situations, and shoot burglars or people running away, you can end up in a situation where it is hardly justifiable to use such weapons against persons.

And then such laws are okay. I mean there are criminals here like everywhere, but I honestly don't know anyone personally here that has ever been threatened with a gun or a knife, though I know of one case, where someone was beat up by a burglar. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't see a lot of use for a gun as a tool for protection if you lived here.


I'm not saying that guns are strictly non lethal tools, but there are different uses besides killing people.

Good point. You can kill animals for food, and I myself have enjoyed punching holes in paper.

But this ...

You could shoot the tires of a fleeing car, or you could stop a person by shooting into his leg.

No, no, no.

Shooting at a moving target is real hard. Shooting at a tire is stupid - the bullet is going to hit the rim, and be flung into who knows what direction.

You're not getting this: if you shoot a bullet into a person, anywhere, you run the risk of killing him, or at the least crippling him for life. A shoot into the knee is a life-changing crippling event. Tear into the femoral artery and your target is going to be dead in just a few minutes.

a civilian probably wont be able to pull this off successfully in stressful situations

I think you are imagining the cops have a lot more juju with firearms than they do. To attain the kind of skill you are a talking about - reliably hitting a guy in the legs - takes way more range time than is going to be practical.


But you seem to be from the US; I think the mindset is different for 'what works' and what doesn't.

If people tell you something long enough you start to believe it right? That's the same for both sides. I've been raised in television, papers etc (and real life to an extend) that you shoot to disarm, not to kill. You have been taught by the same media (and real life?) that you have no choice. Why is yours right? It seems a bit weird saying that comparing police kills by guns (and violence in general) on both sides to me. I think you have a choice but you are taught not to even consider it; is that a possibility?

Edit: It's a serious question, not something other than that. I'm curious as to the way I was raised and have lived and the way you were. I have been to the US a lot of times, but never more than a few months. I read global news (try to read from not too bad sources), but i've been taught & raised in the EU and even the reactions from non-EU give me the feeling there is something just very different in your attitude towards 'shooting people'. The 'no other choice' thing is very strange to me.


I think the mindset is different for 'what works' and what doesn't.

Could be. Although I tend to think in mechanical terms: switch A goes into tab B the same way in German, or English. Guns is guns, and the laws of physics apply no matter what the jurisdiction is.

You have been taught by the same media (and real life?) that you have no choice.

The latter. Though it's by the Grace of God that the single time I did draw my weapon that I was not compelled to use it.

In other words - he put his hands right up in the air.

I think you have a choice but you are taught not to even consider it; is that a possibility?

I believe you mis-understood.

You are not _forced_ to use your weapon if it comes out of the holster. But one never draws it as a threat, without intending to shoot. You deploy the weapon only if deadly force is warranted.

I'm curious as to the way I was raised and have lived and the way you were.

Middle class suburbs of Oklahoma. Then I joined the Marines for eight years, did some time at a Navy base where we had top secret clearance and got a lot of classes on how and when to use deadly force.

even the reactions from non-EU give me the feeling there is something just very different in your attitude towards 'shooting people'. The 'no other choice' thing is very strange to me.

The US - as you know - is a big place. Lots of room for cultural differences. A guy from California, who never handled a firearm outside of a video game is going to have a much different attitude than a guy from the midwest who is comfortable and familiar with 'guns'.

Worth repeating: it's not that one does not have a choice, but that one should never, ever, never deploy a weapon unless the circumstnances justify killing. You can always -not- shoot, but recongize that pulling it from it's holster is only done under dire circumstances.

A gun is a tool, is all. A very, very specialized tool.

Another way to put it - and this might be a money-grubbing attitude unique to Americans - is to internalize that -if- one deploys a firearm as a civilian one should expect to pay out $20,000 bucks minimum. That's the average legal bill a guy faces if he shoots someone in the US.


> Another way to put it - and this might be a money-grubbing attitude unique to Americans - is to internalize that -if- one deploys a firearm as a civilian one should expect to pay out $20,000 bucks minimum. That's the average legal bill a guy faces if he shoots someone in the US.

Wow :) That's really interesting to put it like that. I didn't know that. But police would have a different outlook on that right?


But police would have a different outlook on that right?

I believe this to be so.


Yes and no (for ther disarming part). First i know some cops and their martial arts skills, sometimes they are not very high. Second, there are martial arts skills and martial arts skills. the main difference is if you train for competition, technique only or combat. And combat is really rare. And as it was mentioned before, knifes are really dangerous in cklose combat, not so much on your arms, but certainly on your body. Plus, vanila ballistic vest offer close to no protection against them.


Is it not possible to make a ballistic vest do both at once? If not, why not? I'm curious. And if they can, why don't they wear them? Seems knives are a lot easier to get for any age?


AFAIK the main reason is weight. The standard vests are a fabric, like a shirt (sorry for the over simplification). As mentioned in the other response these fabrics slow a bullet down to zero. It can still break your ribs, so. On the other hand, a knife cuts through these fabrics as it will cut through a shirt. A solution is to put "plates" in the vests at critical points, they also offer additional ballistic protection.

Downside is these plates aren't flexible (conformt is an issue if have to wear your vest all day at 30° C in summer) and they become heavier and more bulky.

But again, that's what if been told by some german cops and I'm no expert in that.


I recall this being something to do with the physics involved. Modern ballistic vests don't stop or reflect bullets like a stereotypical Iron Man armour, they're special fabric designed specifically to absorb the energy from fast-moving small things and slow them down to zero. A thrust knife moves a lot slower than a bullet and has a different shape (wider, flatter, etc) so apparently it can go through standard vests without much trouble. It's difficult to create practical vests that can stop both.


I don't know about Germany but I suppose the situation might be quite similar in Finland. A quick googling revealed that about 15 police bullets shot per year is roughly the average in Finland, and most of them are warning shots. The Finnish police shoot and kill less than a handful of people in a decade. It's always news, and the news always report that police hasn't killed anyone for X years.

The Finnish police forces are only allowed to use a gun when no other force is effective or available. So, it's the worst-of-the-worst case choice. All policemen I know haven't fired a single bullet during their entire career.

Further, generally each shot fired (or use of any weapon) in duty will require the policeman to report the case to his superior officers and the internal investigations will determine whether what happened was within the laws that limit the use of force in duty. The fact that officers who shoot are generally suspected for breaking the criminal/police law is a constant counter-force to limit the usage of firearms. Mostly they don't and investigations cease but each case will be considered.

Thus, the policeman needs to be 101% sure the situation warrants firing a gun until he will use it. In most cases where shots are fired there's a prior permission from the superior officers. There must be a case where a single policeman had to fire a gun based on his own judgement but I don't remember reading about one. The patrol calls do involve armed civilians but the clear majority of the offenders are talked down.

This creates a general atmosphere where criminals know not to shoot back to the police. They know that because of the strict laws governing gun use in force, the Finnish police mean it when they announce they're prepared to use armed force. There's an occasional nutcase with a gun and who doesn't give up and he might be surrounded for hours or even days but even those cases rarely escalate to an actual firefight with the police.


With respect to #1: in countries with a functioning justice system, humane prisons, no death penalty and no insane "three strikes" rules, criminals are more likely to surrender and just accept defeat.


First of all, German police statistics underestimate weapon use a bit (though not horribly much, so we're not talking about order-of-magnitude errors here). The gist of the article is correct, as far as I know, in that German police officers use guns far less than American ones (though still more than the UK police, where -- with few exceptions -- the police does not carry guns at all).

As far as I know, it's primarily a matter of policy. Gun use is the ultima ratio, only to be used when other means are insufficient. Constitutionally, this is a reflection of the principle of proportionality [1] in conjunction with article 1 and 2 of the German constitution. This means that police officers are required by law to use the least intrusive means available to stop a crime and not use disproportionate means (obviously, with due regard to the difficulty involved when making split-second decisions or judgements based on incomplete and insufficient information).

On a practical level, this is ensured by two mechanisms. Firstly, these principles are part of the firearms training for police officers. Secondly, each gun use by a police officer in the course of his or her duty automatically triggers a criminal investigation (even if it is obvious self-defense). This adds a high inconvenience factor even for justified uses that discourages casual shooting. (In 1993, allegations that a GSG-9 member had executed the terrorist Wolfgang Grams [2] nearly led to the dissolution of the GSG-9 and, along with the botched execution of the raid, caused the resignation of the Minister of the Interior.)

[1] http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/3907/1/1458-1702-1-SM.pdf

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Grams


Minor nit: the UK police, where -- with few exceptions -- the police does not carry guns at all

Firstly, some UK police forces are routinely armed -- the Nuclear Police and the Transport Police who patrol airports pretty much always carry automatic or semi-automatic weapons. (The first cop you see entering a British airport concourse will probably be carrying an MP5.)

Secondly, all UK police forces have specialist Armed Response Units, and all UK police have radios: if an armed incident is reported (including knives, not just guns and bombs), the armed units will turn up to handle them.

British police officers who carry guns are required to put in range time more than once a week and are trained specialists. Their usual tools are a Glock-17 and an H&K MP5, plus body armour, although specialist snipers are also on call.

So: while ordinary police patrols are "unarmed" (as in: they wear anti-stab vests and carry batons, pepper spray, and in some cases tasers -- just no firearms) any incidents that involve weapons will be responded to very rapidly by marksmen.

The policy difference is simply that British police forces treat firearms use as a speciality, and cops who carry guns need to be trained to a high level of proficiency. Given that the average American police officer draws and fires their gun in anger once in their career, if that, it follows that they're either under-trained or a huge amount of training is wasted on people who don't need it. The argument for arming them -- that it's a big country with a lot of violent armed criminals and specialist backup may not be available in time -- doesn't apply in the UK (small, dense country, very few firearms in private hands, relatively easy to summon armed specialists as needed).


Also routinely armed: police in Northern Ireland.


> The first cop you see entering a British airport concourse will probably be carrying an MP5.

Last week, a friend told me that when he flew into Amsterdam some years ago, there were people with automatic weapons standing around, and he was told it was routine.

Can I ask what the hell Europe is expecting that the US isn't? Because aside from some deployments in the immediate wake of 9/11 (which I vaguely recall were such a joke that the rifles weren't even loaded), we don't do that here.


Airport police in the UK carry H&K MP5s, with a selector for single-round or three-round-burst fire only - no fully automatic rock'n'roll. The reason is that a semi-auto carbine with sights is much more accurate than a pistol (especially if shooting across a crowded airport concourse), and rifle ammunition is out of the question (to easy to penetrate multiple partition walls and kill bystanders). So, pistol ammunition but a more accurate gun.

As for what they're expecting? This is a genuine Scottish tabloid newspaper cover from a couple of years back:

http://current.com/entertainment/wtf/88862229_i-kicked-burni...

There have been attacks on British airports in recent memory: not often, but often enough to justify the permanent armed police presence. And then there are the security nightmares everyone in the security biz remembers, such as the Lod Airport massacre:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lod_Airport_massacre


Which US airport are you talking about? I've flown out of Newark and La Guardia a few times in the past year and a half, and I've seen uniformed people with machine guns each time.

Hell, I've seen policemen with machine guns in the subway. (I'm not a gun person, by the way, so maybe "machine gun" isn't the right term, but it's definitely the kind of gun that doesn't require you to pull the trigger per bullet fired.)


SFO, SJC, SEA, PDX, ORD, ATL, DEN. Never touched the New York area.

TSA everywhere, but nobody carrying anything remotely rifle-like.


You'll see them more often in New York or D.C. I've even seen them at SJC once. They come out at one of the color-coded terror alert levels, but I forget which.


> Can I ask what the hell Europe is expecting that the US isn't?

Probably terrorist attacks like these:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_and_Vienna_airport_attacks


> German police statistics underestimate weapon use a bit

Can you explain how?


Methodological stuff mostly, as far as I know. For example, they generally do not include firearms use by the federal police (which includes the Federal Border Guard and the anti-terror unit GSG-9).

Because the police is primarily a state-level power (as in the USA), with the federal government having only a limited role (in fact, the BKA as the German counterpart of the FBI probably has less power than the FBI), this should not affect totals too much.


German here. I believe this is because power is balanced on a level of low escalation.

The threshold for firing a weapon is rather high for law enforcement and criminals know this. They also know that pulling a gun or even firing at an officer when things go wrong will easily add 10 years to their sentence. As a result, most chases and arrests are not a life-threatening situation.

Let me illustrate this with a story: My neighbor had a break-in, the alarm went off and the burglar was caught in the act. Burglar pepper sprays my neighbor, her friend and two police officers and escapes via the roof. Police officers had their guns drawn but wouldn't use them. Burglar knew this and didn't bring a gun of his own in the first place. Everybody lives.


> 2. Perhaps German criminals aren't as well armed as American criminals, and so when the police try to arrest them the criminals know they are outgunned and give up.

Nobody is as well armed as Americans.

But really I'm pretty sure it's down to policy. The police doesn't 'shoot first, ask questions later'. No need to escalate to using guns unless you're directly threatened with a weapon yourself - say if the guy is threatening with knife. And I really think it's the fewest of people who are desperate/stupid enough to try something like that.

Also note how 49 of those 85 bullets were warning shots fired into the air.


I think like other comments noted, it all comes down to value of human life. Considering the UC Davis pepper spray incident (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UC_Davis_pepper-spray_incident), these numbers are not surprising at all.


I am pretty convinced #1 and #2 are both true. POlice officers most of the times do not hunt down murderer or kidnappers (their is hardly murder in Europe, compared to the US), but are asked to appease husbands beating their wives, stop parties that are too loud, etc. Those people will hardly ever own a weapon - other then in the US.

Second, I am pretty sure there is another culture of violence and fighting with the police in the US. Car chases, for example, are way less often in Europe - criminals tend to give up, instead of fighting to death.


I have no statistics of my own, so I cannot cry foul. But can you back up "their (sic) is hardly murder in Europe"?

Europe is a big and quite diverse place..


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentiona...

All data in homicides per 10000 inhbitants in 2010

    USA - 5.0
    North America - 4.7
    Western and Central Europe - 1.2
    East Europe - 7 (mostly thanks to Russia with 15.0)
    Overall Europe - 3.5
    World - 6.9


I suspect that many gun fights in the US involve young people from underprivileged social backgrounds who don't know what they're doing. That demographic is much smaller in Germany as the welfare state keeps many of them on the right(ish) side of the law and the population is frankly older.

I believe violent criminals in Germany are more professional types. They know when they have lost and they will switch to damage control mode instead of escalating the situation. It's mostly organized crime as far as I can tell. Lawyers instead of gun fights.


Criminals are just not suspected to have a gun. Another example: When German police is trying to stop one on the road they are driving ahead and then decelerate, so you can't escape. American police, at least in the movies I know, are driving behind you so they can see every move of you and you do better the show-your-hands-and-no-quick-moves-thing.


A drawn but unfired gun can be very effective in convincing someone to stop what they're doing. It would be useful to know how many times their guns were drawn.

It may be (I dont' know) that German police are trained to minimize firing, and American police training may put relatively more emphasis on how to fire guns to resolve situations.


Yes.

The. War. On. Drugs.


Gangs. American gangs are fueled by uneducated population. Ignorance is so celebrated here, mixed with the attitude of entitlement, you get a lot of frustrated uneducated people when they realize that all the stories about getting rich and famous only apply to 0.0001% of the population.

This mentality is the major factor.


How much crime in America is caused by gangs? Without this fact, this claim sounds non-sensical.


Do you have any facts and figures to back up that claim?


There are several claims I've made. Which one are you interested in?


Gangs alone account for more crime than the total in places like Germany, but US crime levels ex-gangs are still higher than in those other places.

Gangs alone aren't an adequate explanation, but if you're looking for a single factor, maybe the reasons people go into gangs would be broad enough to account for it.


4. Because none of these people live in Germany:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw5pZpGh5Hg


The german police patrols in 2 person teams. You'll never see a single policeman in a car. This changes the dynamic of every confrontation.


I tried to find similar figures for the UK, but could not. Best I could find was:

"From 1990 to 2011, police shot dead 53 people" > http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/dec2011/riot-d27.shtml


http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/non-perso...

Suggests that police in England and Wales discharge firearms in ~ 6 incidents a year.

(updated: UK -> England and Wales)


For comparison, here's some information about New York police:

(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/08/nyregion/08nypd.html?pagew...)

> The number of bullets fired by officers dropped to 540 in 2006 from 1,292 in 1996 — the first year that the city’s housing, transit and regular patrol forces were merged — with a few years of even lower numbers in between. Police officers opened fire 60 times at people in 2006, down from 147 in 1996.


Not to mention the police attitude to people. Its like nazi Germany in the United States. Police can do anything and get away with it. Im watching the police in the US and comparing to Europe, and I cant believe the amount of sadistical violence that is going on there. Maybe because ex military people become cops?

Its a very scary place. I dont even go there as a tourist because they have a legal right to throw anyone in jail without trial if they want to.

That being said, ordinary people are very friendly. But the government and the police are scary as hell. Totally dark forces going on there.


"Its a very scary place. I dont even go there as a tourist because they have a legal right to throw anyone in jail without trial if they want to."

The U.S. is not a scary place. Violent crime is the lowest it has been since the 1950's. Also, the police do not have the right to just randomly arrest people. I have no idea where you came up with this notion, but it is manifestly untrue. There is much to criticize in law enforcement trends in the U.S. and this type of hyperbole is completely unmerited.


I think you may be blowing things out of proportion just a bit.

The vast majority of people in the US will never be terrorized by a police officer. In fact, the only time most people even interact with a police officer will be for a traffic citation.


I know of people who have recently done vehicle sobriety tests (while sober), very obviously failed in trollish ways and blow zero on the breathalyzer just to annoy the police officer here in the USA and then let go. Police can be polite.


Your perception of the US is a bit off.


that's a slow weekend in LA.


What's really odd is that there were "49 warning shots". Police in the US aren't allowed to fire warning shots. For good reason too, it's a completely reckless thing to do.


It does not tell you anything about their rules of engagement, so how can you say it is completely reckless? I've seen my fair share of shoot-outs from the US, and if that is not reckless, than what is?

Coming from Norway i find the very notion that police carry guns very strange. I also feel less safe when I'm around guns, be that of police or just regular citizen.


Because there's no safe way to fire a warning shot in a public space. Firing a weapon without a proper backstop is always extremely dangerous and should be a last resort.

Also, I seriously doubt you would feel less safe in an FBI office than a ghetto in London. One is full of guns, the other is full of danger.


You are taking my statement out of context. I just said that guns make me feel less safe, not that I feel less safe in a police station.

You also conclude that firing warning shots means that they have no backup, again, you have no idea what their rules of engagements are or what situation they were in and what the circumstances was.


I'm not familiar with the procedure of giving a warning shot.

Are you entirely certain that these shots were fired high up in the air, instead of, say, 5 meters up ahead (or behind, for extra safety) of someone running away, into the ground?

Leaving that aside (I might be totally wrong and you can convince me of that): "Last resort" leaves only room for one single thing, right? And I'd put "shoot at a person" in that place, after all (potentially?) dangerous acts of warning.


London does not really have anything that you could describe as a ghetto.


No crime-ridden neighborhoods where many of the residents live in government housing?


If there is no one around except the person that is not shot at? Why is that not safe?


If the US police isn't allowed to do reckless things, where are all those car chases I can see on TV filmed?

I would think those would endanger bystanders much more than shots fired into the air (which might only kill you if you are really, really, unlucky, as in 'having a weak skull and watching up, getting the bullet in an eye socket' or so.


Bullets fired into the air can and do kill people because most of the time they do not loose their spin and hit with a higher speed than terminal velocity.

Source:

http://mythbustersresults.com/episode50

Bullets fired into the air maintain their lethal capability when they eventually fall back down.

busted / plausible / confirmed

In the case of a bullet fired at a precisely vertical angle (something extremely difficult for a human being to duplicate), the bullet would tumble, lose its spin, and fall at a much slower speed due to terminal velocity and is therefore rendered less than lethal on impact. However, if a bullet is fired upward at a non-vertical angle (a far more probable possibility), it will maintain its spin and will reach a high enough speed to be lethal on impact. Because of this potentiality, firing a gun into the air is illegal in most states, and even in the states that it is legal, it is not recommended by the police. Also the MythBusters were able to identify two people who had been injured by falling bullets, one of them fatally injured. To date, this is the only myth to receive all three ratings at the same time.


Still - what are the odds that bullet fired in the air (let's say at 60 degree) will actually hit someone?

Most people during the day are under the roof, and with average population in New York being 10 000 persons/km2, sth like 99% of that under the roof at any time, so the figure goes down to 100 people per km2, assuming people are 0.5 m2 target for the bullet it's 50 m2 / 1000000 m2 , or 1 chance in 20 000. And I probably still overestimated that.

Certainly odds that bullet aimed at someone will hit are much higher (yeah, I know, it's most probably criminal you are shooting at, and falling bullet will most probably hit bystander).

EDIT: and warning shot can be shoot to the ground near the criminal, or into a wall.


I should add that bullets can go through the roof, and this has been documented to happen in some of the incidents of upward-aimed fire causing injury.

But I agree with the idea of aiming towards locations where the bullet is likely to penetrate but not go through. The ground might be dangerous because of the potential for ricochet - but many other surfaces could be adequate.


2 people... I don't know exactly what the stats for that is, but I'm pretty sure it would be safer to fire warning shots and maybe kill someone, than fire at someone with the expressed intention of killing them. Also, why do warning shots have to go in the air all the time?


Most US police agencies these days do not engage in high speed pursuits for non-felony suspects. Chasing a murder suspect may be dangerous but so is letting one escape.

Warnings shots fired in public are virtually always reckless.

And no where did I claim or imply that US police never engage in reckless behavior.


So warning shots are reckless, but shooting people directly is not? My guess is, that there were about zero injuries because of these 49 warning shots. How many unarmed people have been shot in comparison by US police?


The logic is that if you have the opportunity to fire a warning shot, the circumstances were not severe enough to justify firing a gun at all. A woman in Florida just got 20 years in prison based in part on that principle: http://jacksonville.com/news/crime/2012-04-21/story/naacp-we...

Note that some evidence suggests she was also the initial aggressor, which likely contributed to her conviction.


Shooting people directly usually harms only the people being shot. Warning shots have larger probability to harm other people.


This is just plain wrong. It's much, much more common for shots fired at people to hurt bystanders than warning shots fired into the air. There has only been a single recorded case ever of someone being killed by a warning shot fired into the air. While there are thousands of cases of bullets ricocheting off walls or going through them and harming civilians during shootouts.


Is that really the case?

The chance of someone being injured by a "warning shot" is essentially the proportion of the ground surface which is occupied by a person. Unless you're in a crowded area, this is very low - in fact I would think it's less likely than a bystander being struck by a horizontally-fired bullet that misses its intended target.


You are assuming that the person being shot deserves it. UK police shot about 5 people a year. I can think of at least 3 instances where this was totally unnecessary. I.e. drunk man with table leg in his backpack which was mistaken for a sawn off shot gun. Mentally ill teenager with a toy gun. Ditto but with a gun shaped lighter. All with highly trained firearms officers present. It seems highly likely to me that less well trained 'general purpose' US police officers are shooting a lot of people unnecessarily.


I don't believe it. Do you have any evidence for this?

Also warning shot is frequently likely to prevent the harm on the person that otherwise would be shot. Isn't it enough?


who is saying that a warning shot is shot into the air? it could e.g. also be aimed at a soft ground surface


Where it could ricochet and kill someone.


Shooting people harms their family for example in a much more definitive way than shooting in the air harms bystanders.


As far as recklessness go, 49 warning shots in one year is still a bit better than e.g "...another 90 shot at one fleeing unarmed man in Los Angeles."


Sure, I'd agree that US police are probably recklessly trigger happy. But when it comes to warning shots their policy is correct.


I think the core of the issue here is a societal difference towards firearms, and how that results in the training and education of people. Gun ownership is fairly high in the US, relative to Europe and seen as a right having requisite responsibilities within some circles. One of these responsibilities is training in the use and handling of firearms. From childhood on, I was always taught to "never point, and most definitely never discharge a firearm at anything you do not specifically intend to kill." Most of the ranges I practice at have the same sort of messaging ubiquitously placed on the site.

While I can't speak to the experiences in Germany, I would presume that a society that largely eschews the personal possession of firearms would have a built-in perception that anything is better than pointing one at a person. Whereas, in the US we might argue that the weapon should not be drawn unless you have every intent to take a life. (Outside of practice towards targets.)


I also think that criminals have a different attitude towards warning shots knowing that the police (almost) never fire shots.


Warning shots are part of the procedure.

If a german officer wants to use his firearm, he has to warn the other party either verbally or ideally with a warning shot, if time permits and if no immediate threat exists to the officer himself or other persons.


The problem is that there's simply no way to safely fire a gun in a confined public area. If you look at what it takes to make a gun range safe you'll see why. You need a large non-ricocheting backstop to be safe.


So you in your opinion it's better to shoot to kill a person than to give a fair warning that they mean business, where there is a slight, near non-existent, chance of bystanders getting hurt or killed.

I would agree with you if they were using high powered rifles with armour piercing rounds, but most shots fired by police are from hand guns.

When I was enlisted we were trained to fire warningshots in the ground or something hard in near proximity of the target. This way you knew that your bullet would land within a visible area that you would be able to make sure was reasonably safe.


In my opinion a gun is a measure of last resort, to only be used when nothing else is possible.

A gun is a lethal weapon, and it is used to kill. When a gun is used the shooter has to be thinking that someone needs to be killed.

"Warning shots" carry the risk of injuring / killing innocent people. They also carry a risk of injuring / killing the criminal. That risk is unacceptable.

Warning shots mean that guns are used before they absolutely have to be used. But if warning shots are needed why not have one officer armed with a blank-firing pistol?


I disagree, as a warningshot is usually followed with lethal shots within seconds. You basically give them one last chance, if the circumstances allow for it (!), to lay down the weapon.


Reckless? Hardly.

Think about risk and probability. The probability of any of these warning shots actually hitting, hurting or even killing someone is extremely low. I'm not aware of any warning shot fired by the German police ever hurting anyone.

So, 50 years or so of warning shots and no one was hurt. If a warning shot kills someone today, those 50 years of warning shots only had to save two lives (someone decides to give up instead of seeking confrontation and being killed) to be worth it.

I think it's pretty simple, actually. On the whole, warning shots seem quite beneficial, that more than outweighs the low probability of hurting or killing someone.

But humans are bad at dealing with probability, so your error is understandable.


1. You have no stats on what has happened with German police warning shots over the years. It's quite possible there were innocent bystanders hurt.

2. It wouldn't be worth killing a single innocent bystander to save 10 violent criminals in my book.

3. German police very rarely fire warning shots at all. That doesn't make it not reckless, it just makes a bad outcome less likely to occur.


1. Unless I'm missing something neither do you. It would seem to me that it should be quite easy to find mentions of people killed or hurt by warning shots as it is not common for people to die of bullets falling from the sky unexpectedly. Absence of such data would suggest that this doesn't happen rather than that we don't hear about it.


Possible. Unlikely. I couldn’t find anything by googling around. It’s pretty obvious that those warning shots have an extremely low probability of actually hurting anyone.

Something with a low probability of hurting someone and done with good justification cannot be reckless in my eye. Celebratory gunfire? Reckless. Warning shots? Not.


Interesting that you know the probability of -any- warning shot, fired in -any- direction, at -any- time...

Bullets fired into the air have regularly caused deaths and injuries around the world. [1]

In several US states firing a bullet into the air is a crime, in some, a felony. [1, below]

I find it difficult to believe that any person is well trained enough to take all critical factors into account during an armed encounter to determine whether or not a bullet will ricochet off a non-target surface, and in what direction it will ricochet. [2]

"So, 50 years or so of warning shots and no one was hurt. If a warning shot kills someone today, those 50 years of warning shots only had to save two lives (someone decides to give up instead of seeking confrontation and being killed) to be worth it.

I think it's pretty simple, actually. On the whole, warning shots seem quite beneficial, that more than outweighs the low probability of hurting or killing someone."

I find this a starkly terrible calculus. Are you really saying that cops can kill one innocent person for every two potential deaths they may or may not have prevented?

"But humans are bad at dealing with probability, so your error is understandable."

Consider this statement in light of actual statistics.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebratory_gunfire#Falling-bul... (Numerous citations)

[2] http://books.google.com/books?id=VbrDbbHAflsC&pg=PA109&#...

EDIT: In the essence of improving one's self, what about this rebuttal causes so many downvotes?


Yes, I think saving two lives is preferable to saving one life. What’s so hard about that? That’s simple math.

Firing shots at people is also illegal in most situations pretty much anywhere. The police gets an exemption from that blanket rule under very specific conditions. I’m consequently not sure of what the fact that firing shots in the air is illegal is supposed to convince me.

I don’t think people or the police should be allowed to fire in the air for no reason at all. That’s obviously stupid. That does certainly not mean that firing in the air can never be a great idea under very specific conditions.

I do not deny that bullets fired in the air are dangerous – but the probability of them actually being dangerous is extremely low. That’s the whole point.

I'm also not sure what that dig about probability is supposed to me. I think that probability is easy enough to roughly estimate and that any estimate leads to extremely low numbers. Estimate the area of humans exposed to the sky that would also lead to death if hit, compare it to the area of ground. For that second one you can use some densely populated area to get an upper bound.

That celebratory gunfire is common in some countries and that it – despite hundreds of shots being fired in the air – leads to only very few deaths should already tell you something about the low probability. (Celebratory gunfire is obviously stupid, though. There is no good reason to do it, nothing that could outweigh the probability of hurting or killing someone.)


If the top comments on an article are about whether the US is a "civilized country", it's probably not Hacker News.


That's only because they made people line up to save bullets.


>German Police Used Only 85 Bullets Against People in 2011

Only? That's far too many for Europe. 20-30 would be a much better number.


"used only 85 bullets"

What an odd way to quantify police violence.

Right? Wrong? Justified? Article provides none of that.




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