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Off-Duty Policing: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Off-Duty Policing: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Dr. Richard Weinblatt, “The Cop Doc”

While crime has gone down, according to published crime statistics, incidents involving assaults and worse on crime fighters are still prevalent. Luckily, in the face of all the danger, law enforcers have not backed down and continue to honor their oath and their mission. But what of incidents that occur when you are off duty. The question comes up regarding off-duty policing: should you or shouldn’t you step in and save the day?

This article covers a topic that I have spoken about numerous times with many law enforcers; especially those that are new to the cop career. This is useful stuff to ponder, especially if you’re a newbie, and a great reminder for the veterans.

Officers, deputy sheriffs, and state troopers are by their nature type A, take charge type of personalities. The police run forward when all others run away. While that is admirable courage and honor are traits needed to be an effective an honorable keeper of the law enforcement flame it does no good to make the situation worse. Sacrifice with no appreciable gain is not what other law enforcers and family members want to see.

When deciding whether to intervene, here are some items to consider.

1) Need. Ask yourself is it necessary for you to intervene at that moment. Do you hear sirens in the distance that indicate that uniformed, on duty officers or deputies are about to arrive and take control of the situation. Does it appear that the bad guy or guys are about to leave the vicinity and that the threat to people has dissipated.

Officers and deputies newer to the career should really take heed of this one. Rookie officers have long been known to be more eager to get involved than veterans. Additionally, they often do so before they have the requisite experience to determine the real need, as well as the ability to use that not yet garnered valuable experience to guide them through the crisis.

With the advanced training and experience that law enforcement folks get, consider being the world’s most proficient witness. As a trained observer, you may be more valuable to the investigation and the successful, safe apprehension of the individuals in a time, place, and manner when the good guys are in control.

2) Authority. Be sure of your states laws and agency’s policies regarding off-duty intervention. Some agencies do not allow their officers to have their firearm on them off-duty. Others only grant them police powers while within their employing department’s geographical jurisdiction.

If you are travelling out of your area, be familiar with that jurisdiction’s stance on off-duty officers carrying concealed weapons and acting under color of law. That is especially true if you are out of state.

Despite the laws and police customs that favor officers carrying firearms on their person around the nation, some jurisdictions have been known to hassle and even criminally charge out of state officers.

3) Equipment. If you do decide to intervene, do you have the tools of the trade that may help you to do the job at hand batter and more safely. On duty officers have all the benefits of being fully equipped: the uniform, bullet resistant vest (I hate the term bulletproof – it does not make a superman where bullets bounce off your chest), semi-automatic firearm, extra high capacity magazines, extra firearms and long weapons, intermediate weaponry, radio communications, backup, and marked unit with emergency lighting. That gives them some advantages that they would not otherwise have.

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  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    @ Anonymous:

    WOW! I thought I had heard of some chickenshit policies before, but that one takes the cake!!!! I am a retired SC LEO and never knew that N Augusta had policies like that. I would recommend that an officer working for such a jurisdiction obtain a CWP for their state, if such is possible in their given jurisdiction. Fortunately, since 96, SC has had a, "Shall Issue", CWP law. I got mine back before HR-218 because it gave me legal standing when carrying in certain other states which we had reciprocity with. People used to ask why I had a CWP when I could carry off of my badge. I had to explain the out of state thing to them as well as the policy of my department. While I was never suspended, I was keenly aware that it could easily happen for little things like missing a court hearing by accident or coming in late. While I can understand it for serious things like stealing, corruption (bribes), and other violations of law, I never understood the part of the policy which required you to turn in your badge, ID, and gun, for minor policy violations resulting in suspension. Had such happened to me, the CWP would have still afforded me legal carry. When I retired, it was a few months before my department got around to qualifying me for HR-218 so the CWP was a blessing to carry off of. I still renew it every four years as it covers any gaps that might occur if I don't get to renew my HR-218 credentials before they expire, one year from last qualification. One other perk about being retired is that I no longer have to pay the $50 renewal fee. Retired LEO's and disabled vets get theirs for free in this state.

    Some years ago, I read an excellent article by Massad Ayoob on why cops living in places where they can do so, should obtain a CWP. In addition to the reasons above, Mas made note that if you were forced to shoot someone while off-duty, in some cases and under certain circumstances, it might be to your legal advantage if you did so as a lawfully armed civilian, rather than as a police officer. I forget a lot of the content of the article but I recall that it made a lot of sense at the time I read it.

    Needless to say, I try to avoid going anywhere that I cannot be armed. I have seen too many cases and read of many more where bad things happen to good people who are not adequately prepared to deal with them.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    One other things - do you believe that you are onduty 24/7? Is that something you heard or is it in your agency's policy manual? Officers hurt stepping in to intervene while off duty or making an arrest at a secondary employment (part-time job), have been denied Worker's compensation by their municipality. Make sure you are covered - especially for long-term disabling injuries.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    I agree USLaw man1983 comments. Cause(New york to LosAngeles)off duty & on duty cops-where not all officers know each other by face.I think, if any signal create off duty & on duty officers both each other know.

  • Uniform_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I have always thought that a great cop is on duty on and off the clock but I agree with most of you that it depends on the situation and if it will be helpful or needed to get involved.

  • 2011_range_day_2-19-10_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I always carry off-duty. Not to enforce the law but to save lives, starting with my own, my familiies, my fellow LEOs, and innocents.

  • Field_sniper_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great article....true words of wisdom for all. Stay safe out there brothers and sisters. Keep a level head, make the right call, and keep the right people alive.

  • Fmf_badge_max50


    over 4 years ago


    When my father was a C.o.P. he told us several times that he was on duty 24/7, unless we were on vacation. In our home region Dad would not hesitate to enforce the laws of the state, county, or community. He always carried a small .38cal S&W Chief's Special when "off duty" as well as a set of cuffs. I have been with him when he has made arrests when we were supposed to be on our own time. He arrested poachers while we hunted or fished. I have been with him when he would pull out the red light and stop someone for a traffic violation. Dad did not have a bullet resistant vest like the LEO's do today, in the later years of his carreer he did have a military style Flak Vest, like that worn during the Nam conflict. Dad would not hesitate to arrest some one who violated the law when he was off duty. He would come home many a night looking like a chunk of hamburger, but he always arrested the "prep".

    On huntint trips I have seen my father take down armed violators, with out batting an eye and only with a threat of deadly force. My older brother and I where brought up in such a way that if we came upon a LEO in trouble we would stop and render aid in any fashion we could. But that was years in the past, today we could go to jail if we provided covering fire for an officer or if we intervened physically to help. It is a shame how things have changed since I was a younger person and not disabled.

    Today people are afraid to help the cops when they come upon a situation where they need help of some sort. They are afraid of being sued by the perp or their intentions being mistaken by the cop. We have counties in our state that are as large as some eastern states and my have less than a half dozen LEO's to patrol and answer calls for help and then it may take them more than an hour to get on scene. Things need to change, people need to be more active in helping the LEO's when they need help.

    You all have a onderful holiday season.

  • Funny_pictures_56616_max50


    over 4 years ago


    There's afine line between a great ( off duty ) witness and a Dead ( off duty ) hero. Be careful not to trip over it.
    Every situation is unique and your other Family needs you too. Be careful out there........its uglier than ever.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    I enjoyed the article, but lets face it. We see our brother or sister in blue having a problem, or some dog ass slapping their wife to the ground, we will react. That's what we're trained to do, however our officer safety should kick as well. Good brothers and sisters out there!

  • Sfa_iv_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Really enjoyed this article.

  • Mcso_patch_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great read for me, as a newbie to law enforcement

  • 12235_sq90_max50


    over 4 years ago


    A good read.

  • M_6946ca1d848d9668dafcfd3d9aea06c5_max50


    over 4 years ago


    lets just face reality here....the crap hits the fan and you are are an off duty cop....reality is you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. you will either get hung out to dry by your dept that doesn't want the bad press because you did something or you get hung out to dry by the press because you didn't.

    the real decision is which choice can you sleep easiest with?

  • Larry_apache_dist_13_max50


    over 4 years ago


    In today’s PC Policing Policies taking action on off-duty incidents would not be wise, unless it is a serious felony. You can't be the Robo Cop 24/7; the odds of your police career lasting will result in burnout and unwarranted Internal Affairs investigations. I have seen more officers get into trouble from being second guessed in off duty crap, getting letters of instruction, days off and being fired. The job is hard enough not making any bad decisions while on duty, why would you want to increase your odds of not finishing your career. Think about it how many Lt's, Captain's, Majors and above get fired from sitting behind the desk, unless they have someone bent over it!!!!!!! Don't sweat the little shit, enjoy your off duty time and always carry your weapon and ID and don't forget to visit Arizona

  • Lieutenant_smith_max50


    over 4 years ago


    what difference does it makes? The officer is serving the town or county still. I believe if you put it to a vote the citizens are going to love having that Officer in that place. Once and final CITY AND COUNTY PAY THE OFFICERS A GREAT SALARY AND THIS NEED WOULD CAUSE THE CHIEFS TO STOP OFF DUTY. Y es this hurts the officers because some are cming to work not rested. However they have family to feed. Once PAY THEM.

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