There are, of course, times when a situation may arise that would call for immediate action with less than lethal force, and we can postulate endlessly on what the circumstances might be. I would not recommend jumping into the chase of a shoplifter by store security officers (a property crime). I also would not suggest that we idly stand by and watch someone get hurt as we talk on our cell phone to dispatch.
You may have to wade into the fight to draw the attention away from the intended victim all the while using less than lethal force. Call for the back up that is needed and do what you can but be careful not to overstep your authority in these situations and most of all, try to keep yourself from being injured in the process.
I remain confident that if I ever become involved in a situation during my off-duty time, I will be able to remain clear-headed enough to suppress the adrenaline rush, not let it overtake me and cause me to dive into the situation ill equipped. Some officers carry their firearms off duty. Some do not. It is a choice we all must make with ourselves.
I would strongly recommend extra ammunition for whatever firearm you are carrying but to carry handcuffs, batons, spray, and the like seems to be a little over the top when not in uniform. Remember the story of the old sheriff. He attended a party and was carrying his duty sidearm as he was in uniform. A partygoer asked if he expected trouble because he was armed. He said he always carried a pistol and if he expected trouble, he would have brought his rifle.
This story reminds us that handguns are generally thought to be defensive weapons and the ones we carry off duty with smaller barrels, closer sights (or none at all), and smaller ammunition capacities should be used defensively. One instructor that taught an active shooter class that I attended put it aptly. He said, Use your handgun to fight your way back to your rifle. I have not seen anyone purporting carrying a slung rifle off duty yet but based on what some folks are now suggesting, that idea cannot be far off.
I'd like to thank Jeff Garrison, a 17 year veteran of the Dearborn, MI Police Department who contributed significantly to this article. While it was a collaborative effort, the fact is that the article would never have been written without Jeff. Hats off to him.