I don't know why, but every generation of young officers thinks, "I am now a copper! I have the legal authority and power to carry a weapon off-duty, so here I go!" Wait a minute here; before you go off into this pistol packing world…do you have a plan? Do you really know what all of this could turn into? Let's explore this in a logical, sane, and legal manner.
Departmental Rules Please
The first question I usually get is, "I am a cop now, so what can I carry?" Then I always retort with the same answer: "Whatever your departmental rules and regulations allow you to carry." That took all the fun out, didn't it? Some agencies have regulations on make, size, caliber, carry fashion, having it registered, and familiarization. So, after you check into these items, most of the basic questions are answered by now.
What concerns me here now is the tactics part. I have known officers that have "the holster du jour" and a gun for every day of the week. This is wasteful and tactically unsound. My recommendation is to have a weapon you are thoroughly familiar with and a sound carry system. I do not want you at the moment of truth hesitating and trying to recall just what weapon and carry rig you have on today. Get a good one and stick to it for now. Basics count.
Now, what else can you think of that you should carry? How about your proper credentials? Your shield or star and updated identification card are a must! You are not Paladin from the old television series of 'Have gun will travel'. Should you ever get into a situation, having the proper credentials may save you from an embarrassing situation with the locals.
Other Accoutrements of Life
Going out on the town with the idealism of self-defense is one thing, but preparation is another. There are a few other accoutrements that I consider worthy of consideration.
Communication- Do you have a cellular phone or a police radio with you? If you observe something that needs more assistance, you need a way to reach help.
Temporary restraining devices- Just in case you interrupt a law breaker and he surrenders, how are you going to restrain him? Handcuffs are a necessary item here. Or consider carrying flex-cuffs. When I travel I recommend duct tape for the most festive moments.
Extra ammo- I do not know what kind of weapon you are carrying, but more ammo is always the last thing you think of packing yet a great help in the darkest of times.
Small high intensity flashlight- If there is only one extra thing you carry, this should be it. It can light the night, serve as a signaling device, or provide a visual distraction for an adversary. Besides, you can always use one.
Consider other forms of personal protection- A small canister of OC or even a personal TASER is a start if you are not in a firearm-friendly situation. A small can of OC in a fanny pack or backpack can be a less-lethal alternative.
Words of Advice
As most of my martial arts instructors teach, to fight is a wasteful thing. I don't advocate you arming up and seeking out a fight. You have a duty to protect yourself and others. Before you do all of these things, have a plan. And if your odds are not that good…be a professional witness.
Discuss with your spouse, partner, and family just what their roles are in a situation that is evolving. Planning prevents accidents and needless troubles. Verbalize all that you observe to them and tell them what their expectations are within their limits. Your loved ones are precious to you; do not jeopardize them for a two-bit criminal.
Train hard and train smart…it is your life out there.