- It reduces the period an officer must serve before gaining eligibility to carry as a retiree. Current law requires 15 years of service and the proposed amendments reduces this by five years.
- It eliminates the requirement that retirees have "non-forfeitable" retirement benefits to qualify. This term has been found to have no definition and has distracted some states during the adoption process.
- It clarifies training requirements that will ensure a retiree can meet the mandatory re-qualification standard either through the agency he or she formerly served, or through the state where he or she currently resides.
- It creates more flexibility in training. Currently, many retired police officers have trouble finding a state agency willing to train them because of liability concerns. The amendments would allow certification of the retiree's training by any person authorized to test law enforcement officers' qualifications.
Not only as an agent in charge of a law enforcement-focused branch of a firearms-centric organization, Hoyer supports the Improvements Act as a police retiree as well. He says retired officers aren't going out looking for situations that would require them to draw the concealed gun.
"We've had our fill of that," he says. "[I carry because] after 25 years: No. 1, I've put a lot of bad people in jail and some of them can hold a grudge. And No. 2, again, self defense, but there's a lot of a crime. It's nice to know I am able to protect myself."
Slow to adopt
As mentioned, some states have yet to implement a process to qualify their agents.
In his personal testimony supporting Wisconsin state legislation to enact bills to further codify and provide state direction to credential LEOSA-related rights, Attorney General of the State of Wisconsin J.B. Van Hollen notes the state has been slow to credential its officers due to agency concerns over liability.
In his written support from March, Van Hollen says: "Some agencies, likely under the advice of risk averse corporation counsels or risk management officials, have declined to implement H.R. 218 because they fear liability could flow from the issuance of a certificate pursuant to federal law. By limiting liability, this excuse is removed. Those who properly apply the law will not have to worry about lawsuits.
"The bill provides a mechanism to ensure that federal officers who served in the state have the ability to have credentials issued."
Agencies in other states have held similar concerns.
Hoyer explains to concerned agencies that the department an officer retired from or the one that qualified him or her has no liability; the retired law enforcement member is held accountable. "Which means that if you are [LEOSA-credentialed and] involved in an encounter and you do have to shoot someone, even though it's in self defense, you're the one who gets sued, not the agency," he says.
Though some see LEOSA as a positive piece of law securing and supporting rights for law enforcement, there is opposition from law enforcement as well. LEOSA gives special carry privileges to what are otherwise considered civilian folks, something that is generally a point of contention for groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Campaign, which work to reduce violence caused by firearms.
The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) is one of the organizations that has voiced its concern via an official document or letter to the court and law makers. An example of the letter PERF provided its members as a template to challenge local efforts to pass the original bill in 2003, PERF suggests:
"This measure ... would endanger the lives of active police officers, retired officers and citizens. More guns, even in the hands of off-duty officers, retired officers and law-abiding citizens, does not translate into less crime and violence."
A prominent organization partially opposed to the proposed changes is The International Association of Chiefs of Police. In its July 2009 issue of its association publication, IACP stated it is opposed to the Improvements Act because the IACP believes the amendments would weaken the standards and training requirements and lower the length of experience necessary to qualify by five years.
The IACP states it "opposes the LEOSA Improvements Act because of the association's belief that states and localities should have the right to determine who is eligible to carry firearms in their communities … [and LEOSA] would undercut the ability … to determine what standards best meet the needs of the departments and the communities they serve." Instead the IACP prefers that localities reserve the right to set standards and practices for their community.