Safe at Home; A Cop’s Dilemma

How do we keep ourselves, and our families safe at home?

It’s also a good idea to start with age appropriate firearms safety (the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” program is a great resource for younger kids), and then teach your whole family how to safely retrieve your firearm and handcuffs from safekeeping and bring them to you in a subtle, “tactical” manner (IE: away from the bad guy).  Frequently reiterate to them that they are part of a warrior family, and that some day you may need their help in protecting the family and/or the community.  Talk about your own survival mentality and your “warrior ethos,” and if you’re looking for a few good stories to tell the kids, pick up a copy of Steven Pressfield’s book “Warrior Ethos” or Ben Sherwood’s “The Survivor’s Club.”  If you empower your family, especially your children, to help out and take control, they will amaze you!  Also teach them to call “911” if it looks like you need immediate assistance. Have them tell dispatch that an off duty officer needs assistance and to stay on the phone to help the responding officers determine your location, description and your specific needs.  If you’re home alone, consider keeping your gun and handcuffs in a secure area closer to the front door. Where ever you keep your home defense weapon(s), practice retrieving them so that in a crisis you don’t have to “think” about where it is.  And remember, cops often get hurt when they “rush in.”  Train yourself to quickly assess the situation and consider the safest alternative.  For example, for the officer who found herself dealing unexpectedly with that man armed with a knife at her own front door, there would have been nothing wrong with pushing the guy (or verbally directing him if he was cooperative) out the door and then calling “911” and waiting for back up, or better yet, slamming the door in his face (creating both distance and a barrier), retrieving her firearm and calling it in.

Her letter also brought up another excellent concern: “take home” squad cars.  Officers who bring a squad home have to be extra vigilant in dealing with people in their neighborhood, since the squad in the drive way is basically a bill board saying “a cop lives here!”  If your department policy allows, consider parking it a few blocks away in a more “public” lot (with permission, of course), put it in your garage, or even park it at the local fire station. The less you advertise that someone in the house is a cop, the better, especially if your kids frequently play outside.  If you have to leave it in the driveway, discuss potential scenarios with your family and your neighbors to help them deal with people who may approach your home looking for assistance or worse, looking to do harm. 

Unfortunately, off duty safety means we have to be prepared to take action not just at the grocery story or at our kid’s school or at the bank while making a deposit, but in our own homes as well.  Be vigilant, and stay safe!


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About The Author:

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith is a 29-year veteran of a large suburban Chicago police department. Recently retired as a patrol supervisor, she has held positions in patrol, investigations, narcotics, juvenile, crime prevention and field training. As a sergeant, she supervised her department's K-9 Unit, served as a field training sergeant, recruitment team sergeant, bike patrol coordinator, the Crowd Control Bike Team supervisor, and supervisor of the Community Education/Crime Prevention Unit.

As a patrol sergeant, Betsy served on the Elderly Services Team, the Crisis Intervention Team, and was a supervisory member of the Honor Guard Unit. From 1999 - 2003 Betsy hosted various programs for the Law Enforcement Television Network and served as a content expert.

A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command, Betsy writes for numerous law enforcement and government publications including and is a regular columnist for many police websites including Police Link. A content expert and instructor for the Calibre Press "Street Survival" seminar since 2003, Betsy also serves as an on-air commentator and advisor for Police One TV and was a featured character in the Biography Channel’s “Female Forces” reality show. Betsy has been a law enforcement trainer for over 20 years and is a popular keynote speaker at conferences throughout the United States and Canada and beyond.

Betsy is the lead instructor for the Calibre Press “Street Survival for Women” seminar and manages Dave Smith & Associates. Together, Betsy and Dave teach courses through “Winning Mind Seminars,” an Illinois based company. She can be reached through her website at

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