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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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  • Marvin_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I once had stopped to pick up a gallon of milk for the little ones on the way home (in uniform), when walking to register a lady ran up tp me and said they were chasing a male through the store that had just robbed a 70+ year old women, knocking her down and ripping her purse away. about that time as i was saying call 911, he busted through some clothes racks, and we came face to face. the lady screamed thats him and he stuck his hand in his jacket. needless to say it quickly escalated from there. I was in the next city east of my jurisdiction. i did what i had to do, and made the arrest. The city PD came in as i was fighting him and trying to get him (cracked up) cuffed. We got him cuffed and that was that. The chief later wrote a letter to my boss to cover my butt. But then i thought what would have happened if he produced a weapon and i had to fire on him?

  • 024_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I know the agency I work for has a policy prohibiting us from getting involved in most off duty incidents. Obviously serious felony offenses are precluded from this, but as a general rule of thumb they would prefer you be a good witness. The longer I'm a cop the more I agree with this policy.

  • Policememorial---a_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great article Rich. Bump Robocop33.

    I am only inclined to get involved off duty if there is a direct threat to my life or someone else, however I do make a point of checking on every officer I see that is engaged with a subject while I off duty to make sure he/she is OK and does not need an assist. A quick show of the badge and a "Code 4?" sign and I can continue on feeling better about my brothers and sisters, esp. after the 6 officers we lost last year in the Seattle/Tacoma area.

  • Img_1081_max50


    over 4 years ago


    In this day and age I am truly curious as to what agencies do knot allow their officers to carry their weapon off duty. Can anyone name a few actual law enforcement agencies that have this screwy law?

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Great article very insightful but also flawed logic in some ways not everything but for Example, in the state of North Augusta SC. police officers are not allowed to carry and even went further that they can not be in uniform when off duty or carry their badge or identification. Thank God I'm in bail enforcement!! I know lots of people who would like to see me dead. It's the same for police officers; I think it's insane that an officer of the law can't carry his gun and me just a simple BEA, basic bounty hunter can at all times. So if you’re a police officer in SC. And off duty and right in front of you a crime happens all you can do is call 911 and hope the cavalry arrives, good luck on that one. That’s a stupid law!!! police officers should have the legal right to not only protect themselves but their families as well. My dad is a Will County sheriff for 25 years; he helped put many bad guys in Joliet Prison and Dwight correctional facility , I doubt my father has best friends in their, and like my Dad told me criminals don’t care about jail or being arrested they become use to the criminal justice system. If you’re a LEO crime will find you, the longer you build cases the higher probability that somebody is going to take some revenge; it’ goes with the job. The classroom will tell you the odds of that happing are like wining the lottery, but I’m here to tell you I went to many funerals for fallen police officers because inmates have lots of time to think and build hatred towards the policemen that put him their. I say carry your gun maybe it will save your life one day.

  • Wp_20141125_003_1__max50


    over 4 years ago


    We all need to read this not matter how long we have been on the job.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I have to admit the valor of stepping in makes me feel good, although without the proper equipment or open knowledge that you are an officer can actually be detrimental, before reading the article i could easily have answered differently, still in life or death situations if you are close enough to prevent the dirty deed ( still that judgement call ) do it

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Very good article, something to think about.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    In the paragraph concerning Identification. Should it read ""they did NOT know that the person with a gun was an off-duty crime fighter." Just an observation. Otherwise the article is good advice, especially for rookie police officers.

  • 10954533_10152768417768138_2117542071882865207_n_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Important article

  • Dallaspolice_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great Article. I agree with Robocop that this should be taught in the in-service classes as a reminder of the dangers of off duty encounters. I work alot of off duty jobs and live in a rent free and have learned when to take action and let things go. If they are a hook today they will be a hook tommorow. Stay safe guys.

  • Knightthinblueline_25_-_copy_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Number three is definitely something to remember. Tactically you are at a great disadvantage when intervening while off duty. Plus, tragically, I have heard of too many off duty officers getting injured or killed by friendly fire because they are not easily identifiable by on duty officers.

  • L_59fe72e99fa891e59f62e6ceb62eca88_max50


    over 4 years ago


    This is a good article, yes.....rookies have that save the world mentality. But we arent exactly saving cats from a tree. It all boils down to public safety.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Sound advice, I stopped a suspicious person panhandling when I was off duty, I noticed he was holding something up his sleeve-as he walked away I stopped him and found it was a heavy wrench about 16 inches long (he was obviously looking for people to mug). I called the local police and as I was waiting to talk to an office I asked him if he had ever been picked up for anything-and he said "murder". Too me the dangerous part of the contact was over-however I did not have cuffs if I would have needed them-and I would stop him again in like circumstances because I am sure I prevented someone else from being mugged that day.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Definately one for the rookies who feel they will "take on the world"

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