Cops on run from straight shooting
If you are in the Philippines, in trouble, and need someone to shoot straight, do not ask the police.
In another embarrassing setback for the country's much-maligned force, a Manila police chief this week asked his officers to re-aquaint themselves with the art of using a gun. He found most of them could not hit the proverbial barn door.
Senior Superintendent Avelino Razon said that most of the officers who took the gun test failed. Some did not even hit the target. The flunkers included a number of senior police officials, who 'scored well below the passing mark'.
Superintendent Razon, who last year ordered compulsory ballroom dancing sessions to improve officer morale, ordered all 3,336 men in the Manila force to undergo a firearms proficiency test.
After two days of firing, said Superintendent Razon, things did not look so good. 'It is true. Of the 76 officers who turned up during the first two days, only three did well enough to pass.' He said the rest would have to undergo repeated firearms training until they prove they are good enough to be let loose with a gun.
However, the hapless officers have received support from an unexpected quarter. Inspector Jaime Santiago, chief of the force's Special Weapons and Tactics Division (SWAT), said the test might have been too hard.
Inspector Santiago, who has ended a number of hostage situations with a bullet through the hostage-taker's forehead, said he took the test and only managed to score 123. 'The highest score in this test is 150, so there is no doubt it is difficult,' said the man known as 'Sharpshooter'.
Inspector Santiago said he had originally been banned for taking part in the test because other officers feared his legendary marksmanship would demoralise his colleagues.
In the test, a shooter must fire five rounds from 23 metres within five minutes, five rounds in 20 seconds and five rounds from nine metres in five seconds.
Since the tests started on Monday the results have ranged from the ridiculous to the average.
Among the lowest were a major who scored four and a captain who scored six. But there was a reason for this, explained Inspector Santiago: 'Both officers are handicapped and suffer from poor vision.' Other SWAT members who supervised the test said the low scores indicated many of the officers might not be in good physical shape.
'We noticed that many of them couldn't stop their hands from trembling under the strain of the gun and its recoil,' said one. 'This is a sign that they are not physically fit.' For the record, the competition is led by beat officer Perlito Soler, whose .38-calibre service revolver has been with him in all his 20 years of service. He scored 124.
'I am happy,' he said. 'Especially considering I have not used my gun for a few years. I don't remember when I last used it to shoot [in the line of duty].' Others were not too lucky, as witnessed by the number of stray bullets embedded in the walls of the test site at the Western Police District Command Headquarters.
At the 25-yard distance, most of the shots were way off mark. Inspector Santiago jumps to his colleagues' defence again: 'A policeman rarely shoots from 25 yards. We are much closer to the suspect, say five or 10 yards.
'From 25 yards, you use a rifle.'