Last June POLICE magazine published an editorial that asked readers to let us know if their agencies had policies that prohibited officers from carrying backup guns. We promised to contact these agencies and ask the reasons for the policies. Calls were made and the following is our agency-by-agency report.
Barrington Hills (Ill.) Police Department-Did not respond to request for information.
Brighton (N.Y.) Police Department-Did not respond to request for information.
Botetourt County (Va.) Sheriff's Office-Deputies are allowed to carry only one handgun while on duty. An agency spokesman says the policy was established because of weapon retention concerns. The policy is not under review and the only thing that might spur such a review would be the development of a level three retention holster for a backup weapon. Officers do have access to shotguns and patrol rifles in their cars.
California Parole Officers-Golden State POs are sworn officers under CPOST, and they are issued Smith & Wesson 9mm pistols as a standard sidearm. A California corrections spokesman says that most POs are not allowed to carry backup weapons. However, parole officers who are going out to bring high-risk parolees into custody may be allowed to carry backup guns, on a case-by-case basis.
Cleveland Metro Park Police-Although little known outside the Cleveland area, this agency's jurisdiction is a massive stretch of territory. The Cleveland Metro Park system is a widespread chain of parks on the outskirts of the city and surrounding Cuyahoga County. The park chain, sometimes called "Cleveland's Emerald Necklace," encompasses 15 different reservations and some 20,000 acres. It is patrolled by 77 sworn officers, all of whom are forbidden to carry backup guns by a de facto policy that prohibits officers from carrying any gun that isn't issued by the department. Chief Greg Loftus says the policy was in place when he was named chief about one year ago. The chief says he is open to reconsideration of the policy if his officers approach him with a well-researched discussion of the issue.
Columbia (S.C.) Police Department-The police charged with protecting the residents of South Carolina's capital city are not allowed to carry backup guns. The policy has been in place for more than 25 years. A spokesperson says it was established because of concerns about "throw down" guns and because the department does not have the resources to outfit and train every officer with an additional weapon. Officers are not allowed to bring their own backup weapons because of concerns about standardization. The policy is not under review and is not being considered for revision. The spokesman says there have been no requests from officers to permit them to carry backup guns.
Jefferson City (Mo.) Police Department-Did not respond to request for information.
Kenosha (Wis.) Police Department-A directive from the chief prohibits backup guns. A department spokesman cited the need for standardization in training as the reason for the directive. It is not under review.
Lighthouse Point (Fla.) Police Department-This affluent northeast Broward city did prohibit its officers from carrying backup guns. The policy was changed by new chief Ross Licata. The backup guns must be approved by the chief and inspected and reviewed by the training sergeant. Officers must qualify with the backup handgun.
Lower Merion (Pa.) Police Department-Officers in this Mainline suburb of Philadelphia are only allowed to carry issued weapons and only one handgun is issued. The de facto prohibition was established because of concerns about "throw down" weapons and weapon retention. It is not under review.
New Jersey State Police-A department spokesman says that backup guns are permitted. However, prior to two years ago, officers were only allowed a second issued sidearm, a full-size Heckler & Koch 9mm. Two years ago the department switched to SIG 9mm pistols and revised its policy to permit compact secondary weapons. A variety of revolvers and compact semi-autos are now approved as secondary weapons. Officers must qualify twice per year with backup guns.
New York State Police-Officers are not allowed to carry backup guns. A spokesman said the policy has been in effect for a long time. He would not give a reason for the policy. It is not under review and apparently not open to discussion.
Norwich (Conn.) Police Department-This eastern Connecticut department prohibits officers from carrying second guns. Chief Louis Fusaro says the ban on backup guns stems from concerns about weapon retention and standardization of weapons. He says his officers have not formally requested permission to carry backup guns. The policy is not under review.
Prince George's County (Md.) Police Department- Did not respond to request for information.
Quakertown Borough (Pa.) Police Department-Chief Scott McElree was in just his fifth week on the job when we called him. He said he was in the process of going over the department's policy manual and that the backup gun policy could be revised. "I'd have to check and see what the norm is," he says. "But I don't see any reason why the officers couldn't carry backup guns, as long as they follow department policy." McElree says that if he decides to allow backup guns, the guns would have to be approved by the department and officers would have to qualify with them.
Raleigh (N.C.) Police Department-Did not respond to request for information.
San Antonio Police Department-At presstime officers in the Texas city were forbidden to carry backup weapons. However, the policy is changing and a department spokesman said a new backup gun policy would be in place in a few months, if not sooner. The change in the policy was spurred by officer requests following an incident in which officers were disarmed and attacked with their own handguns.
Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Police Department-Officers in this Alabama town are permitted to carry backup guns upon approval by their unit commander. The policy requires officers to qualify with second guns and it specifies that backup weapons must be no smaller than a .38 Special. Hideaway guns are prohibited.
University of Maryland Department of Public Safety-This campus force of 85 sworn officers serves a population of 42,000 students, faculty, and staff. It prohibits second guns because of liability and weapons retention concerns. The policy is not under review.
U.S. Army Military Police-Trying to contact the U.S. Army press office during wartime for anything that doesn't directly involve the war is a fool's errand. After literally hours of bouncing around the switchboard at the Department of Defense and at the MP training center at Fort Leonard Wood (Mo.), we gave up. We couldn't even confirm that Army MPs are forbidden to carry backup pistols. If this is true, we sincerely hope the policy does not apply to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. If anyone knows more about this, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection-The Border Patrol bans second guns because of a policy manual written during the Clinton Administration. Ranking agents are working to revise the policy, and they believe they will succeed. However, it could be some time before Border Patrol agents are allowed to carry backup weapons. They do have access to patrol rifles.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas Police Department-This agency is one of 13 departments on University of Texas campuses throughout the Lone Star State. Its 45 sworn officers are not allowed to carry backup guns because of weapons retention and officer safety concerns. However, Chief Larry Coutorie says the issue was once open to well-researched discussion. "I asked officers who inquired about it to do some research, and they found very few incidents [where backup guns were used by police officers to defend themselves]. They only found one in our area in the last 30 years. We just don't have the kind of population that is aggressive to the point of trying to take officers' guns away from them."
Washington, D.C., Metro Transit Police-There are 377 officers in this transit police agency, and they are all forbidden to carry backup guns. The policy has been in place since 1976 and was established because of concerns about liability, weapon retention, and holstering. It is not under review.
Wilmington (N.C.) Police Department-Officers of the Wilmington PD are not allowed to carry second guns. However, the department is in flux. The coastal North Carolina city's police department is currently under the command of an interim chief while the city seeks to fill the post. Officers have requested a change in the policy, but any policy review will have to wait until a new chief is in office.