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Departments : The Winning Edge

Off-Duty Survival

Know how to carry yourself and your equipment safely when you’re out of uniform.

February 01, 2009  |  by Adam Kasanof


Dealing with incidents when you're off duty can be very different from working in uniform. Before you involve yourself in an off-duty incident, it is imperative that you have a game plan in place. As my former boss, Al Materasso (now NYPD's Chief of Manhattan Detectives), often told us, "Failure to plan is planning to fail."

Cover Yourself

Think about the types of crimes or situations that are serious enough for you to intervene. What enforcement action does your agency (and the law) authorize you to take while off duty? What if you're off duty and outside the jurisdiction where you work (e.g., if you live outside your jurisdiction or are traveling)?

Whenever possible, it is best to avoid disputes by speaking, acting, and driving courteously. I strongly recommend that you read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and George Thompson's "Verbal Judo" for strategies to avoid entering into altercations.

It is also important to use good judgment about when, where, and how much you drink. If you're involved in an off-duty incident and you've been drinking heavily, you're likely to have a problem with your agency or a legal problem no matter how justified your actions were.

If you're involved in a personal dispute of any kind—with a current or former spouse or significant other, a neighbor, a traffic dispute, etc.—unless you have an immediate need to defend yourself or another innocent person, it's usually wisest to call on-duty officers to respond rather than try to make an arrest or take other enforcement action yourself.

CONTINUED: Off-Duty Survival «   Page 1 of 4   »

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Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

unclebob18d @ 2/19/2009 7:50 AM

Very good article! I would add that when you carry off-duty you obviously need to have your agency credentials or a permit, and should consider a compact tactical flash light and something to secure a suspect with such as Flex-Cuffs. Plan to win!

AdamKasanof @ 4/10/2009 1:17 PM


Excellent points about my article. On the shield/ID: Originally, the article had a series of photos showing how an off duty officer would look to responding officers; in one shot (which you see above) the officer has only a firearm; in the next shot, a firearm and shield//ID; in the final one, just the shield and ID with the firearm out of sight. I assume that this sequence had to be edited out for space.
Re: flashlights and cuffs: they are indeed a good idea. I had done an entire article previously on what to carry off duty, and it did specifically mention both flashlights and handcuffs. I should have thought to mention those here. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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