Last month several Black Lives Matter protesters "crashed" the wedding of one of the two Sacramento police officers reportedly involved in the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark.
This incident of trespass occurred despite the fact that Sacramento police had not released the names of the two officers—both of whom had received death threats. And it shows the reach of social media.
"I think they need to be approached in spaces where they're a little more vulnerable," Sacramento BLM founder Tanya Faison told CBS News.
I was incensed at this incident. I was not, however, surprised. Frankly, I'm a little astonished that such invasions haven't yet occurred in even greater number.
Remember when Anonymous "hacktivists" released personal information of more than four dozen Cincinnati (OH) Police Department employees in 2016? Or when the group hacked the IACP website and released the names, addresses, and other information of thousands of officers in 2011?
It's no secret that groups like Antifa and Anonymous are simpatico, and when you add BLM activists to the mix, you have a troika of anti-police groups that is not to be underestimated. And clearly, their tactics include attacks on officers when they are "a little more vulnerable."
Consequently, officers must maintain vigilant watch for threats while off duty.
Here are five off-duty safety tips I've accumulated over the years.
1. Armed and Ready—I don't know too many officers these days who are not armed off duty. However, I do know some who may be armed, but are anything but ready.
If you carry your off-duty piece someplace on your body other than where you carry your duty weapon, you have to train—draw repetitions, dry fire, and live fire—so that when the moment comes, you're able to take appropriate and immediate action. Remember: When the time to perform arrives, the time to prepare has passed.
2. The Family Plan—"Oranges!" That's the code word a friend of mine uses to tell his wife and kids to "get on the ground and/or take cover"—and to do so as fast as possible.
Have a plan to communicate the presence of a threat to your family. Regularly remind your family about the need to quickly heed those commands and ask questions later.
And without making them paranoid, teach your kids to pay careful attention to their surroundings when "officer mom" or "officer dad" is not around. For a LEO family, "stranger danger" is an even more hazardous menace.
3. Take-Home Cars—I've never been a fan of take-home cars. They're a giant billboard parked in front of an officer's house announcing, "There's a cop in here—maybe his wife and kids, too." I understand that in some jurisdictions, these cars are a necessity, so if you must take the panda home, toss a car cover on it.
4. Avoid Contact—My dad once told me, "Don't do stupid things with stupid people in stupid places, and you'll probably be OK." That's a good rule of thumb. You're a professional. You know where bad stuff is more likely to happen, and where you're at least relatively safer. Trouble may still find you—just don't give trouble an "assist" by looking for it.
5. Study Safety—There are two books I believe every police officer should read. The first is The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, an expert on predicting and preventing violence. The second is Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley. Van Horne is the founder and CEO of a behavioral analysis training company. Riley is a Major in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. Read these books. Become a student of safety.
Having some knuckleheads crash your wedding sucks. I truly feel awful for that officer, his bride, their friends, and their family. But things could have been far, far worse.
The threat of being attacked, assaulted, or ambushed while off duty is very real, and that threat is not going away.
Anti-police groups and individuals are more likely now than ever to obtain a ton of information about you from online sources and well-protected police databases—and use it to bring you harm.
For these people—and their hatred of you and your fellow LEOs—there is no "off duty."
Doug Wyllie is contributing web editor to POLICE.