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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”

As on off duty officer, you have to decide if you have the equipment needed to intervene. If you do so, than you should have certain equipment with you. At a minimum, you should have your badge and ID card displayed in a visible manner, a working and cleaned firearm with at least one extra high capacity magazine, a fully charged cell phone, and handcuffs.

4) Family. Family is a biggie in the policing world. Many vets of the biz, including me, think it is imperative to place your family’s safety first above all else. If your family is with you, you should try to keep out of a confrontation. Seeing a violent confrontation is dangerous for your children both physically as well as emotionally.

If you have to intervene, or if the bad guy comes after you and the choice is made for you, have a pre-arranged code that your family knows. That is their cue to move away from you and head quickly to a safe location where they summon the troops to help you. In a critical incident, you need to be able to operate with a clear head free of concern or worry for their well-being.

5) Identification. The ID and badge mentioned above is central to this point. Many officers from Providence to New York City to Los Angeles have been killed by responding on duty officers because they did know that the person with a gun was an off-duty crime fighter. This is particularly true in larger jurisdictions where not all officers know each other by face.

If you do step in before the uniformed folks are on scene, make sure that they know who you are upon their arrival so a tragic shooting doesn’t happen. Some agencies use a color of the day to help avoid this tragic scenario but that is applicable for the most part for their on duty, plainclothes operatives.

Many off-duty badge bearers have a visibly marked smock “police” or “sheriff” printed in bold, block lettering. The smock is folded in a fanny pack and thrown on the torso in times of emergency intervention to help in establishing authority.

As with on duty officers, it is also advisable to use loud, repetitive verbal commands telling the suspect or suspects what you need them to do. Those commands should be given and they generate useful witnesses. Add additional safety by stating your authority in clear unmistakable terms with: “police officer” or “deputy sheriff.”

If the first responders don’t pick up on that, follow their commands closely and don’t move your weapon in their direction. They may have tunnel vision causing them to focus on that firearm in your hand that appears bigger than it really is and negates their perception of that small badge hanging around your neck.

6) Document. Just like when an officer takes action in an on-duty capacity, the work is not done until the documentation is done. It is vitally important to take the time to document the incident carefully. You may need those reports later in criminal or civil legal proceedings.

While the nature of confrontations means that they are hard to control, that chaos that can ensue is particularly an issue when deciding whether to intervene as an off duty crime fighter. By taking the above steps, you should be able to minimize the dangers to you and your family and keep true to your oath to serve and protect the community.

Dr. Richard Weinblatt, “The Cop Doc,” is a former police chief, ex busy jurisdiction patrol deputy sheriff, and criminal justice educator who has written articles and provided media commentary since 1989. He can be reached via

  • Police_link_badge_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Witness........................ 98%

  • Native_clip_art_4_049_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Excellent article

  • M-16_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great Article. Unfortunately though sometimes officers are put into situations which they can't just ignore. Like then following article.
    this guy did everything by the book I wouldn't have done anything different and now he is on trial for Murder.

  • Imag0190_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Very good article. Being an Officer in a smaller department, I am often required to become "On-Duty" at anytime. Some of our citizens, a little while ago, voiced concern of the Off-Duty Officer who was carrying and had a pair of handcuffs on him at the Grocery Store or Post Office. It's actually been a godsend in the form of proactive law enforcement, because it's stopped several potential shoplifting and vandalism reports.

  • Thinker_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Very good article with some outstanding points. When I started out I was all-out 24/7. Through the years and with gained wisdom I've learned to restrict myself to being a good observer and calling in what I see. I've seen a lot of cops get in trouble for off-duty actions both in getting personally injured and in civil and departmental actions afterwards. Unless it is a violent felony or someone is getting seriously hurt, I do not intervene except to call 911...

  • Img_0103_max50


    over 4 years ago


    But I am of the "Old school " law-enforcement mind set, I carry 24-7...365 days a a year..!!!!!

  • Img_0103_max50


    over 4 years ago


    "Bump" cdc463

    I know first hand how getting involved can be both a blessing and a curse. Having "been there" and "done that" has tought me to proceed with much caution and wisdom.

  • American_first_responder2_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Excellent article filled with food for thought; BUMP uncledennis1 words are the best choice in this situation!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Be an expert witness is best in my book. However, I have gone through with my family if I do intervene. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance!

  • White_shirt_max50


    over 4 years ago


    My feeling have always been call on duty personnel and be a good witness.

  • P23-2_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Another good article by the good Dr

  • Img_2492_1___2__max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great artical! Great witness to the crime is prob the best, unless someones life is in immediate danger! Just making sure you are identified as an LEO, those tragic srtories of LEO's losing their lives by fellow LEO's is so sad. Be safe!! thanks for the artical!

  • 580270_10150746332203468_504183467_9096624_481960616_n_max50


    over 4 years ago



  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I believe that a cop is never really off duty...... However, this story is one to ponder

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Excellent article. If you are out of your jurisdiction it's best to be a a healthy witness if you have that option available.

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