Don’t Carry Off Duty Until You Are Trained

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In November of 2014, I wrote an article on PoliceOne about why I believe that law enforcement officers should carry all the time, even when off duty. I wanted to share with all of you the kind of training that I believe  should be provided to officers so that they can carry safely while off duty (or working undercover).

This article is based on training that I received from a recent NRA law enforcement instructor development school and could save an officer’s life, keep command and training staff out of prison, and protect communities from paying damages.

First and foremost, officers (and retired officers carrying a firearm under the protection of the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act – LEOSA) need to be trained to properly select and handle their undercover or off-duty firearms. Next up is how to interact with uniformed officers who show up on scene to prevent a tragic blue on blue encounter.

The NRA plainly states that, “qualification is not training.” Just because an officer can hit the target during qualification doesn’t mean that he or she is qualified to carry off duty. And if an undercover, off-duty, or retired officer shoots someone or is shot him- or herself by uniformed officers, command and training staff could be guilty of vicarious liability or deliberate indifference.

Run down this checklist and if you cannot answer “yes” to every one of these questions, there may be a ticking time bomb in your jurisdiction.

Do you train your active and retired officers how to…

  1. clean, store, carry, and protect their off-duty firearms?
  2. properly select the type of holster to use for specific situations?
  3. demonstrate that they can safely draw, aim, challenge, fire if required, and re-holster their firearm with speed or with stealth?
  4. display their law enforcement credentials?
  5. call for help while they are covering or have already shot someone?
  6. follow instructions from uniformed officers to prevent blue on blue injury or death?
  7. know when to take action versus when to be a good witness?

In summary, personnel who cannot demonstrate all of the above might not be good candidates for off-duty carry. And if you have to give an active or retired officer a qualification “pass,” you are doing a disservice to both of you, your command and training staff, and perhaps your community. Read up on Robert Bates, a volunteer deputy for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office if you don’t believe me.

Stay safe.

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