FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).
December 2018 (1)
November 2018 (5)
October 2018 (4)
September 2018 (3)
August 2018 (6)
July 2018 (4)
June 2018 (3)
April 2018 (1)
March 2018 (2)
January 2018 (1)
September 2017 (1)
August 2017 (1)
May 2017 (1)
April 2017 (1)
January 2017 (1)
November 2016 (1)
September 2016 (1)
June 2016 (2)
May 2016 (3)
April 2016 (2)
March 2016 (1)
February 2016 (3)
January 2016 (1)
December 2015 (1)
November 2015 (5)
October 2015 (1)
September 2015 (3)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (6)
June 2015 (3)
May 2015 (2)
April 2015 (3)
March 2015 (5)
February 2015 (1)
January 2015 (1)
December 2014 (9)
October 2014 (2)
September 2014 (2)
August 2014 (2)
July 2014 (1)
June 2014 (2)
May 2014 (2)
April 2014 (4)
March 2014 (2)
February 2014 (3)
January 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (3)
September 2013 (5)
August 2013 (3)
July 2013 (3)
June 2013 (3)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (5)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (3)
December 2012 (5)
November 2012 (2)
October 2012 (4)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (4)
June 2012 (3)
May 2012 (5)
April 2012 (6)
March 2012 (5)
February 2012 (3)
January 2012 (5)
December 2011 (5)
November 2011 (3)
October 2011 (3)
September 2011 (3)
August 2011 (2)
July 2011 (2)
June 2011 (3)
May 2011 (4)
April 2011 (3)
March 2011 (5)
February 2011 (3)
January 2011 (3)
December 2010 (2)
November 2010 (4)
October 2010 (4)
September 2010 (5)
August 2010 (4)
July 2010 (4)
June 2010 (4)
May 2010 (4)
April 2010 (3)
March 2010 (3)
February 2010 (1)
January 2010 (3)
December 2009 (4)
November 2009 (4)
October 2009 (2)
September 2009 (3)
August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (5)
June 2009 (3)
May 2009 (5)
April 2009 (4)
March 2009 (4)
February 2009 (3)
January 2009 (2)
December 2008 (4)
November 2008 (3)
October 2008 (3)
September 2008 (3)
August 2008 (2)
July 2008 (3)
June 2008 (4)
May 2008 (5)
April 2008 (5)
March 2008 (4)
February 2008 (5)
January 2008 (3)
December 2007 (2)
November 2007 (5)
October 2007 (4)
September 2007 (4)
August 2007 (5)
July 2007 (4)
June 2007 (4)
May 2007 (5)

Dealing With the Off-Duty Cop

When you're the one in uniform, it's not always clear how to handle the cop who's not.

January 14, 2010  |  by - Also by this author

Many a column has been written about the inherent threats that come with being an off-duty cop, how important it is to weigh the need to take positive action, and how to avoid becoming a victim of friendly fire in the process.

Not so much has been written about the prospect of dealing with the off-duty cop. Yet you can be certain that at some point you will.

Most of the time, the contacts will be innocuous. He may be the informant on a call...a witness to a collision...the motorist you warned and advised before sending him on his way.

There are other times, too, such as when you encounter them incident to family disturbance calls, residential burglary reports, or civil dispute.

Even then, they will be decidedly in one camp, and you in another.

Yet there are other situations that can prove problematic: situations where you find yourself becoming part of the equation, or dealing with someone who just gets under your skin and happens to have a badge.

One deputy found himself in a real can of worms when he was contacted by the commander of a nearby city's PD. The commander, off-duty and in civilian attire, had left a fanny pack containing his sidearm in a shopping cart that he was sure had been collected by a black female shopper. The deputy asked him if he was sure that the woman in question had his gun.

"I'm positive," the commander said. "She's the only one that could have gotten it."

The deputy contacted the female who immediately became defensive and uncooperative. To make a long story short, the deputy ended up using force on the woman.

The commander immediately began to backpedal, hedging any proclamation that she'd taken the weapon.

"I said that I thought she'd taken it," he said.

It turned out that she never had the gun. It was found by another shopper who subsequently reported it to the station.

As the woman was understandably upset, the incident had acquired a racial undertone, and words like "I'll sue all your asses" were in the air. I ended up interviewing store employees who'd been in proximity of the conversation between the commander and the deputy. Their statements corroborated the deputy's version of events documented and on tape.

It wasn't as though the deputy hadn't done as much as possible to nail down the guy's story in the first place - he had. But the faith he placed in the man - by virtue of the man's being a fellow officer - had been betrayed. Suddenly, the guy was backtracking and leaving the deputy who'd acted as his agent out to hang.

As a supervisor I'd find myself being asked to roll by where some deputy had detained an off-duty cop for DUI. The unspoken hope (expectation) was that I'd kick him loose. I thought it was chickenshit for them to try to pass the buck on to me and told them as much. I also told them to take him in. It didn't make me feel good, but it was what it was.

Depending upon the circumstances, I wasn't above the occasional "spirit of the law" amnesty whether a guy was a cop or not. But in such situations it was my decision from the get-go: I didn't try to pass the buck.

Off-duty cops can display all manner of attitudes. Some will flash badges out the driver's window while you're trying to pull them over (for the third time in a month). Others will loudly proclaim their vocational status after they've knocked some poor schmuck on his ass in a bar as though it's a "king's x." Then there are those who won't even attempt to disguise the contempt they feel that you're not a member of their esteemed department.

I love cops. But as Stephen King notes of police hiring practices in his latest novel, Under the Dome, "You buy cheap, you get cheap." It follows that some are not so deserving of the faith we tend to put in them.

Professional courtesy is a phrase that gets tossed around and debated on the listserve Police_L. It is something that I suspect most practitioners of similar ilk extend one another. However, it is not something that should be extended lightly, and there are those who have extended a "professional courtesy" to a fellow officer and regretted it, either because the guy went out and did another DUI, or because he spouted his mouth off about the amnesty and the wrong person (or the right person) got wind of it.

Regardless of which side of the equation you may one day find yourself on, it will help to have a game plan in place ahead of time.

I don't imagine most cops lie awake at night wondering how they can hook up another officer. If anything, they wonder how they can avoid it.

One thing you can do to prevent negative situations is to model good off-duty behavior yourself, and reward it when you come across it. Another is to not reward bad behavior.

Any off-duty cop who's inclined to give you a bad time will probably do as much to the next cop down the road. Indeed, it may well be business as usual with him. Do what you have to do. If he doesn't like it, then get a supervisor - just as you might when dealing with any other citizen.

Which is exactly what he is.

Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

FireCop08 @ 1/15/2010 5:37 AM

We are held to a higher standard. We must live to a higher standard and unfortunately treat those brothers who break the law as what they are; law breakers. There may be room for discretion on minor incidents but when it comes to issues like DUI there simply is no room for 'courtesy' any more.

Topgun1 @ 1/15/2010 6:24 AM

My compliments on an excellent article, one that sure makes you think. I do agree that you should not pass the buck, just make your decision and live with it.

csvjma @ 1/15/2010 6:43 AM

Great article. The true Law Enforcement Professional will always give fellow officers the utmost respect. Most of the time the off- duty officers I come in contact with are to 2% percenters. That group that will always be in some type of difficulty until they are fired.

bcmc25 @ 1/18/2010 8:09 AM

Being a motor cop for a while I have had more than my fair share individuals who carry badges and have a sense of entitlement. More often than not pointing out the obvious and what we're about and why we do what we do is good enough, but there are times when I have had to get their attention. It is not my idea of fun by any means but at times professional courtesy stops here. They dictate how I operate. Do what your suppose to, not what you want to do.

coxgregg @ 2/25/2010 7:02 PM

I want to know I am dealing with a cop, and/or family member up front. Usually I extend the professional courtesy. I hate it when I have issued the ticket and then I get a phone call three days later. That is a pain. Good article.

Join the Discussion

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Foot and Hoof Patrol: Meaningfully Connecting Cops and Citizens
Foot patrol is the essence of community policing—officers on foot create opportunities for...
Arrive Alive: Police Must Reduce Single-Vehicle Crashes on Patrol
Too many officers are driving themselves into their graves—turning their cars into their...

Police Magazine