Armed and Off-Duty http://www.privateofficer.com
By: Rick McCann
Always on duty is a tag line that many law enforcement officers have either put on themselves or become accustomed to the thinking of such because of movies, the public’s general opinion, or possibly departmental policy.
A number of years ago when crime was increasing in metropolitan areas, agencies asked that any officer carrying a weapon or driving a “take home” police vehicle while off-duty get more involved in criminal activity that they either saw or heard via the police radio. Some departments even required that off-duty officers respond to priority type calls when in the area of the call and to get involved in criminal activity that they observed including moving violations.
But armed and off-duty doesn’t have the same meaning for private security personnel. While many supervisors and managers of private security firms and departments are required to be on-call during certain times and may even be required to carry arms during
those hours or once they arrive on their employer’s property, it does not equate to being armed for the purpose of enforcing laws or responding to or getting involved in activities that are not occurring in or around their employment location or employer’s property.
While being armed does give a person a certain level of comfort and security in situations that may be or may become violent, dangerous or cause the person to become a victim of crime, the reactions of the off-duty security person should be no more than that of a reasonable and prudent citizen who has a concealed carry permit.
Being an off-duty security officer is no different that being a plumber or a doctor or a painter who is off work even if the security officer is armed.
While some citizens do get involved in chasing suspects in crimes that the person has witnessed and in some cases make a difference in whether or not the suspect is caught and brought to justice, it is a dangerous action even for the off-duty law enforcement officer and should be done with reasonable care and caution.
I know that packing heat can sometimes make us feel bullet-proof and ten feet tall, but in reality, we’re not Superman and we need to make that split second decision with due care.
Personally, I’ve been involved in many of those off-duty chases and I know that there’s not much time if any to react to a purse snatcher who has just knocked an old lady down while grabbing her purse and I’m definitely not trying to discourage anyone from getting involved. I am however invoking a word of caution and suggesting that a person take reasonable actions.
Off duty private officers are often times observant and suspicious by nature which is a good thing. This trait can help the person to be alert to possible criminal activity or persons or situations and when this occurs the security officer should contact the police and not get involved other than to observe and report.
While responsibilities and required response may be different for the officer on their job, this is public streets and the officer has no authority or jurisdiction more than that of a private citizen.
Recently two incidents were mishandled by off-duty security personnel that got both of them arrested for impersonating a police officer.
In the first incident, the private officer saw several people arguing and walked over and flashed his badge and told them to split. One of the persons involved in the argument called police and because a badge was flashed and words said, the security officer was arrested.
In the second incident, the security officer in plainclothers wearing his security badge on his belt and his firearm walked into a nightclub and when the bouncer asked he was a police officer he said something that was taken as a yes and the police were called and the security person arrested.
Carrying weapons off-duty if you have a permit to do so is fine, but carrying, flashing or wearing badges and guns is only going to get you in trouble.
People getting involved in their community whether as a volunteer fireman, neighborhood watch or in any area that makes a difference is important and so is citizens who are alert and crime smart and has a nose for when something doesn’t look or smell right. But it’s important to stay within the boundaries of the law and to notify law enforcement when there is a legal issue, suspicious person, vehicle, or incident.
Know what you can and can not do and make all decisions smart, prudently and with much thought.
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