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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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Off-Duty Stealth Tips

Staying under the radar is usually preferable when you're not in uniform.

December 10, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

If I have not offended everyone yet, I am about to now. I know young cops and they all clamor for the ultimate encounter. Yes, there are even the old ones who also have this dream. But there are times when an off-duty incident occurs that you don't want to be bothered with or even recognized for safety's sake. The problematic issue is that we are our own worst enemies at times.

Bumpers That Talk

One officer told me about how some citizens with an issue came upon him one day. He was off-duty and dropped by a store for some quick shopping. As soon as he got out of his personal vehicle, some distressed lady came up screaming that she was having troubles with her out-of-control child. The officer did muddle through this and when it was all over, he wrote it off as the result of living in a small town. Everyone knows everybody, he thought.

I asked him if he had any cop-like fashions on that day. No, but his personal vehicle was another story. On his bumper was the blue line sticker and he had a state-issued FOP vanity tag. His ride reeked of him being a cop. I have no problems with any of these identifiers and tags. Just be willing to be a cop at all times and know that your family must deal with the consequences if you display these accoutrements.

Looking Like a Cop

Looking like a cop is hard not to do with most of us. Give me a black T-shirt with some cool logo (if you have any in size XL) and jeans or tactical pants. Add boots or sneakers and a baseball hat with the right crush on it … this is cop-fashion cool. I know we all make the occasional police fashion faux pas. But if you do, it could have real consequences.

If you are going out running errands and get recognized as a cop that's one thing. But not being prepared is another issue altogether. What I am saying here is that if you are going to portray the image, be ready to defend yourself.

I have heard several stories where officers were off-duty and got pegged as cops by some heathen that had an axe to grind with them. Thugs are thugs, and they may be waiting for an opportune time to get even. The good guys may have not have been prepared for the attack. What is more disconcerting to me is if you are accompanied by family or civilian pals when such an incident occurs. But that's a topic for another column.

Perform a fashion check before you leave the house: Do I look like a cop? If so, then go prepared. If you don't want to be bothered, tone down the wardrobe.

Watch Your Mouth

Watch your mouth in casual conversations. I know that if we are in a public place there is not a real expectation of privacy. Let's say I am visiting your fair city and you want to take the old chief out for a beverage. Others (both good and bad) could be listening to our casual conversations.

Cops are the only folks I know who have to talk in signals, codes, and use terms like EPD and, my favorite term, perpetrator. It doesn't take a stellar person to deduce that people using this lingo, even in civilian clothes, are cops having an afternoon off for some cool-down time. Watch your mouth and terms; it will keep you out of a tiff.

Bottom line, I know young officers want to be cops through and through, but your off-duty time is sacred, too, and it should be one of safety.  

"Train to take the lead; the view is great."

Tags: Off-Duty Incidents, Officer Safety


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