Well, it has happened again. A friend of mine and I entered a discussion of what to carry off duty and when to get involved in situations that would require police response. This started when he told me of a recent article he read that discussed an off duty officer becoming involved in a shooting and was eventually sued civilly by the family of the dead bad guy.
At trial, the officer testified that he was trying to order the afore mentioned bad guy to stop, cease his actions, or otherwise cause him to be restrained but, said bad guy, in true form, refused and was subsequently shot for his faulty decision-making ability. The plaintiff's attorney argued that since the off duty officer only carried a firearm and ID, he not intended to cause his client to cease anything but rather had actually intended to kill him from the onset of his intervention.
My friend said that the article went on to say that due to this type of legal ridiculousness, off duty officers should carry handcuffs along with their sidearm. I have also seen articles that purport that an off duty officer should carry pepper spray, spare magazines, don't forget the keys for the cuffs. Excuse me but WHAT THE #&*@!
Now, let's look at a little reality. I do agree that extra ammunition is a nice addition to off duty carry. I also carry a pocketknife but this is by no means what that article suggested. My friend carries a fanny pack style holster most of the time and I have climbed into his case when I have seen cuffs, pepper spray, extra magazines, and the like all housed in this obvious gun bag. I have asked why you don't just wear your duty gun belt all the time? It would be easier and then you would have extra ammo, a radio, a baton, and depending on waist size, one or two pair of cuffs. Heck, with all that, I am ready for a night out with my family. Right? Wrong!
As off duty officers we carry much less equipment than our on-duty counterparts do. I don't know the outcome of the above court case but if that officer's attorney didn't flush that argument down a nearby toilet, I would have refused to pay him for failing to do his job.
What do we read repeatedly about on-duty officers who rushed into a situation and failed to wait for back up? Unfortunately, I have read too many of the articles about how these guys died. Now I get to think about them when I visit Washington DC in May for Police Week.
When off duty, I am not carrying a radio, wearing a bullet resistant vest, driving a marked police car, or wearing a uniform. I am generally with my family and there is no readily available back-up close by. Why should I be dressed or equipped as if going to the local SWAT call out?
Given the litigious nature of our society and everyone jumping on the bandwagon to sue the police, why would you take police action other than what any normal citizen can take? Remember the academy training that says, Be a good witness so we don't have to attend your funeral? That is what I am talking about.
I have made my share of calls to other jurisdictions while driving when I have seen drunks. Heck, I even got court time for one of them in another city. Unless there is some immediate danger that anyone could or would step in and intervene, we are not bound to enter the nearest phone booth and come out in full uniform with our capes flowing in the wind.
Use your head. I have drawn my weapon once off duty and that was when the video store I was shopping in was robbed at gunpoint. Luckily, that guy made it to his car and a firefight did not take place. He was subsequently arrested a few weeks later.
Let's go back to the above court case and the plaintiff's argument. He intended to shoot my client from the onset as he had no handcuffs for making any type of seizure. I will break this down in somewhat of an expository manner. What do we do when on-duty and confronting a subject where we would be justified in the use of force, up to and including, lethal force? We order them to do certain things, "Stop! Police! Get on the ground!" You get the idea.