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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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  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Very sound advice that should be given to new as well as veteran officers alike.

  • 1979_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Great article and this should be taught to every rookie and brought up during in-service training at least once every 6 months! It was vastly different when I was a cop as our dept was just small enough that you knew the other guys. Still we were required to take action anytime a felony or any crime occurred that placed others in any danger. I made a couple of arrests while off-duty. Unfortunately this was still before cell-phones and was not something you wanted to do unless you absolutely had to. If we failed to take action and a citizen knew you were a cop and did not take action you could get into trouble. That was back in the old days when a cop was expected to take care of business all by himself. Fortunately those days are behind us as it could be very dangerous!

  • Police_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Commanders and supervisors should read this article at roll calls and post on bulletin boards for the benefit of their officers. The bottom line, it makes sense!

  • Me_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Best Policy anyone should follow.

  • Bronzestarribbon_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Best policy is to be the best witness unless lives are in immediate danger.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    This topic was something that was never touched by either departments I worked for during my 27 years as a policeman, before the advent of the Cell Phone! When talking with fellow officers, you would never get a definate answer. Talk to the bosses, and you would still find yourself wondering!

    This topic should definately be addressed in any orientation program in all departments around the country, and stressed into the minds of the rookie officers at Basic School! What department policy is about getting involved in off-duty policing.

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