Earlier this week, it was reported that 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 — who opened fire on Clark after he fled pursuing officers and led them into the yard of his grandmother's house.
However, their identities were reportedly revealed by the prominent "civil rights" attorney John Burris, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Armed with this information, BLM protesters found the officer's wedding website, which revealed the date and location of the event.
"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 — that global collective of so-called "hacktivists" seemingly bent on revealing many of the world's secrets — 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 — a loose-knit collection of individuals and regional networks — 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. Add yours in the comments section below.
1. Armed and Ready
I don't know too many officers these days who are not armed off duty. Some officers I know refuse to go to a sporting event or an amusement park because they'd have to lock their off-duty gun in the car.
However, I do know some who may be armed, but are anything but ready.
If you carry your off-duty piece someplace 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. This becomes even more important if your off-duty gun is a little .380 and your duty weapon is a full-size .40 cal.
Remember: when the time to perform arrives, the time to prepare has passed.
2. The Family Plan
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 you seen my ukulele?" is the code telling them to calmly and quietly leave the area.
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. Better yet, park it in the garage. Or park it in front of the house owned by a neighbor you don't like.
I'M KIDDING — DON'T DO THAT.
Seriously. Don't do that.
Kidding aside, sooner or later, no matter what you do, that take-home car can become a significant safety liability.
4. Avoid Contact
A wise man — my dad — once told me, "Don't do stupid things with stupid people in stupid places, and you'll probably be okay."
That's a good rule of thumb. Unfortunately, as a kid I did the exact opposite — but that's a story for another day.
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 going out and looking for it.
5. Student of 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.
The books these three men have written hold myriad keys to successfully exiting this world at a very, very old age — and from naturally occurring causes.
I cannot even begin to summarize the wealth of wisdom I've gleaned from these books.
Trust me. Read these books — multiple times. Become a student of safety.
The Bottom Line
Having some knuckleheads crash your wedding sucks. I truly feel awful for that officer, his bride, their friends and their family.
But let's face it — things could have been far, far worse.
The threat of being attacked, assaulted, or ambushed while off duty — whether you are out at a local restaurant, mowing your back lawn, or engaged in any other seemingly inconsequential activity — 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 the police — there is no "off duty."