Saturday, January 28, 2012

Scenario Consultation - A Police Captain's Gun

A writer posed the following scenario to me:

A corrupt Chicago police captain takes a group of police (two men and a woman) to a single family dwelling in Chicago belonging, he thinks, to a drug boss’ cousin.  The police captain is on the drug boss’ payroll.  The visit has two purposes:

  1. He’s going to kill the two men and frame the woman for their murders as if she is the one on the take; and
  2. He’s going to use the visit to put indirect pressure on the drug boss, and use the pressure to demand larger bribes.
Plot Constraints:

  1. The two male police officers get to die;
  2. The woman gets shot and suffers a concussion;
  3. Drug in question is cocaine;
  4. Drug dealers are Hispanic;
  5. House is a three-bedroom, single family detached ranch/bungalow style with a basement;
  6. Drug dealers are conducting business in the basement when the police arrive; and
  7. Police captain does not know that the house is actually drug lab.
Author’s Initial Question

What kind of firearm would the police captain carry?  


Unfortunately, there are a number of technical and tactical hurdles that are at odds with the author’s initial set of plot constraints. 
Issues of Rank

Generally speaking, the duties of a police captain are more administrative and less tactical in nature, and this is very much true of the Chicago Police Department.  Investigatory action of the type described above would generally involve police officers assigned to detective duty (there is no rank of “detective” in the Chicago Police Department), with the field work being done by police officers, possibly led by a ranking sergeant.  While the direct involvement of a police captain in routine investigative activities is unlikely, this is not a fatal plot flaw; the writer could invent some pretext for the captain’s presence.

Police Equipment Issues

SIG-Sauer P229
Chicago police officers are allowed, with some restrictions, to choose and purchase their own sidearms.  These are all semi-automatic pistols and must be chambered for 9mm Parabellum, .40 Smith & Wesson or .45 ACP, and manufactured by Beretta, Glock, Ruger, SIG-Sauer, Smith & Wesson, or Springfield Armory.  Traditionally, senior officers carry a smaller and lighter sidearm, so something along the lines of a Glock Model 23 in .40 Smith & Wesson, or a SIG-Sauer P229 in .40 Smith & Wesson would be both plausible and likely.

Glock Model 23
Additionally, all Chicago police officers are issued, and wear, some form of protective vest.  The police in the scenario would certainly be wearing these vests if they were visiting associates of known narcotics traffickers.

(As an aside, the cocaine traffic in Chicago is run by the ultra-violent Mexican Sinaloa cartel; knowing this, it is unlikely that the officers would “forget” their vests.)

Plot Issue 1 – Ballistics Don’t Lie

a.     Officers enter house.  Sergeant is in lead, followed by officers, followed by captain. (This makes sense; the sergeant and officers do field work all the time, the captain is more an administrator at this point in his career.)
b.     Captain pulls out his pistol and shoots the two men. 
c.     Captain shoots the woman.

That’s all very well and good – but a) the captain is likely going to shoot the other police from the rear, and b) with a caliber that matches his own weapon.  The crime scene people and forensic investigators will put the scenario together in no time at all.  In that case, so much for framing the woman.

Plot Issue 2 – Paper Covers Rock, Level II Stops .40 S&W

All Chicago Police are required to have and use ballistic vests that meet or exceed National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level II protection.  This means that the vests must be capable of stopping a .357 Magnum bullet moving at 1,400 feet per second.  This means that the vest will DEFINITELY stop a .40 Smith & Wesson bullet (1,000 – 1,100 feet per second) from the captain’s gun.  As a result, while shooting his officers in the back will certainly ruin their days, it is unlikely to kill them.  Headshots will get the job done, but will lower the probability that the woman (or the drug dealers) can be blamed for the killings.

Plot Issue 3 - Badges? We Don’ Need No Steenkin’ Badges

Even in Chicago, police officers don’t get to barge into houses.  They need to either be invited or they need to have a warrant.  In either case, they have to announce themselves.  As you can imagine, this adversely impacts the element of surprise if the drug dealers are home.  If they’re not home, or if they don’t answer the door rapidly enough, the warrant would give the police the authority to enter the home anyway.

In the event that the police opt for a no-knock warrant (remember, the captain doesn’t know that the house is being used to conduct narcotics business, so there’s no probable cause and he needs some authority to enter), the noise of the entry will alert the drug dealers.

Plot Issue 4 – ‘Scuse Me While I Whip This Out

This brings us to our largest hurdle, the dealers themselves.  The dealers are aware, one way or another, that the police have come to visit.  It’s unlikely that they are going to offer the officers some pastel de tres leches y cafĂ©; it’s even more unlikely that they’re going to stand around blithely while the police captain executes two of his officers and attempts to murder the third.  It’s far more likely that they’re going to react, well, violently, to the unwanted presence of the police and/or sit politely by while the murders/attempted murders are carried out.


As can be seen, the scene has a lot more moving parts than the make of pistol the captain is carrying, and as a result, the potential for both a lack of realism and physical impossibility is high.  Fortunately, the drug dealers themselves provide a convenient plot tool to solve the equation.  Below is a floor plan for a typical ranch style bungalow in the Chicago area.

 Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there are two Very Bad Guys (VBGs), who have converted bedroom two, in the back of the house, into a lab or “business office” for their narcotics business.  Now, our intrepid, if betrayed, police, believing nobody to be home, prepare to execute the warrant.  The two male detectives enter through the sliding glass doors at the rear of the house.  The female detective and the captain enter through the front door.
FN P90 Personal Defense Weapon, 5.7x28mm
Now bad things begin to happen, and quickly.  VBG1, emerging from the “office” into the hallway, surprises the male detectives in the living room.  He’s got to unleash a lot of bullets quickly, so he’ll need to have an automatic weapon, and he’ll need something that will penetrate the detectives’ level II vests.  Fortunately, Fabrique Nationale (FN) was kind enough to develop the P90, a small automatic weapon (actually a “Personal Defense Weapon”) chambered for a 5.7mm round designed expressly to penetrate body armor (it will punch through a level IIIA vest at 200m).  So, VBG1 empties his 50 round magazine, and the two male detectives are down and out.
VBG1, however, hasn’t counted on the female detective.  While he’s attempting to reload, she positions herself carefully, and double-taps him. He’s down and out.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t counted on a second VBG.  VBG2, packing a Smith & Wesson Model 686 .357 Magnum, puts a 158 grain jacketed soft point into her sternum.  It doesn’t penetrate her vest, but it hits her with a force of some 700 foot pounds, breaks at least one rib and knocks the wind out of her. She staggers, trips and falls.  As she falls, she hits her head on something (furniture?), and suffers a concussion.  She’s down, but not out.
VBG2 hasn’t counted on the police captain.  The police captain moves up and shoots VBG2, taking him out of the fight, but not killing him.
Police captain sees his chance to frame the female detective for murder.  While she’s dazed and out of commission, he retrieves her pistol.
The police captain walks over to the wounded VBG2 and executes him with the female detective’s pistol.  Now he has the ballistic evidence he needs to arrest the female detective for murder.
 And that, as they say, is that.


  1. Another great post. I can see tons of ways the author can use this information.

  2. Adam, thanks for going above and beyond the call of duty. I appreciate your time and attention to detail.

    Mary Jo