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Prepare Yourself for Off-Duty Incidents

Trouble will find you off duty, whether you are ready or not.

January 28, 2011  |  by Ed Lovette


With these points in mind let's consider some of the tactical issues involved with responding to a lethal use-of-force incident off-duty.

The first thing you need to consider is what you are going to have to do if you have your family with you. The California sergeant said in his e-mail, "When you are off duty your first responsibility is to your family...The smartest, most responsible thing I could have done would have been to take care of my family first. I should have personally seen to their safety." Consider that "family" can be represented several different ways such as:

  • Just you and your spouse
  • Just you and your children
  • You, your spouse, and your children

Each of these combinations poses a different problem for you, which needs to be discussed with your family members before, not during, the event.

In a really worst-case scenario you may be injured. Larry Nichols, the senior rangemaster and armorer for the Burbank (Calif.) Police Department and a POLICE-TREXPO advisory board member tells his officers to advise their spouses, "Do not try to help me if I am shot. Stay away; you will only draw fire and get in my line of return fire."

Tactical Response

Off-duty you can control when to announce you are a police officer and use the element of surprise to maximum advantage. Get your family safely out of the way and get the best possible position for yourself. Since you are probably not wearing your protective vest this includes taking advantage of the best cover available to you.

Draw your handgun discreetly. A fast draw may be too flashy, alerting not only good guys in the area but also other possible bad guys that you have a gun. Stealth is more important than speed. A discreet draw prevents anyone from having advanced notice that you are armed.

When the right time arrives, identify yourself as a police officer. This is important not just for responding officers, but you need to consider that there may be other off-duty or plainclothes officers in the area or an armed security guard. You also need to consider the possibility that there may be a lawfully armed citizen nearby.

Having your badge on a neck chain makes a lot of sense to me as it doesn't tie up one hand you may have a better use for, like calling 911 on your cell phone. You can hold it up over your head if you have to, show it to someone behind you, etc., and turn it loose when you need to without having to return it to a belt or stick it in a pocket.

Another option that you may want to consider is the DSM Safety Banner. Designed by Reno, Nev., police sergeant Mike Lessman, the DSM (Don't Shoot Me) is a vividly lettered sash that says "POLICE" on the front and back. The sash deploys from a small pouch on the wearer's belt. The DSM sells for $30 and is available at Lessman says he only takes order for the POLICE model from law enforcement agencies to ensure that the product is only available to officers. In addition to the POLICE, the company also sells DSM banners for CCW holders and security officers.

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

John Tate, LT NMMP @ 2/1/2011 7:05 AM

GOOD SUMMARY. Since 2005 I've been teaching a LEOSA class with a focus on tort liability. Besides blue-on-blue problems, by getting involved you may draw fire that threatens innocents behind you. That is, beware making things worse.

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