I. Purpose: The purpose of this order is to adopt safety directives and guidelines for dealing with the carrying of firearms while in an off-duty status for dealing with an officer’s duty and responsibility to take action in response to criminal activity while in an off-duty status.
II. Policy: The following changes to this department’s policy of carrying firearms while “off-duty” are:
A member may carry a firearm while off-duty in accordance with state and federal law. It shall not be necessary that a member, who chooses to carry a firearm off-duty, carry his service weapon, however, any weapon that an officer chooses to carry must be inspected, approved, test fired and registered with the department armorer. A shell casing and bullet from the weapon shall be maintained by the department armorer for identification purposes.
Officers should refrain from carrying firearms when contemplating the consumption of alcoholic beverages or under other circumstances where the need to carry a firearm is outweighed by safety issues associated with the circumstances that the officer will be undertaking.
A member of the police department who becomes aware of an incident which poses a threat of serious bodily harm or death to some individual shall take “action” to minimize the risk of serious bodily harm or death. “Action” under this provision is fulfilled by reporting the incident and shall not require the officer to place him or herself in a position of peril. An officer who is faced with such a circumstance should act in accordance with the guidelines as spelled out in this General Order.
First, Go to a safe location and call 911.
Second, when you encounter a situation off-duty that seems to require police action, you must consciously evaluate whether your involvement is necessary or desirable, given the circumstances. How important and urgent is the need for your intervention?
A number of circumstances may impact your decision to get involved in any situation. First, you may be alone, with family members or other non-police personnel. Second, it is unlikely that you will have all of the necessary police equipment while off-duty, for example; pepper spray, baton, handcuffs or radio. You may be faced with multiple suspects or unaware of hidden suspects. There may also be environmental factors working against you such as: lack of cover, crowds of civilians, darkness, etc. Your intervention may actually spark an escalation of violence. Therefore, your best plan of action may be to:
1. Gather accurate intelligence like a good witness until uniformed, on-duty officers arrive.
2. Remember, you have NO LEGAL OR DEPARTMENTAL obligation to get involved, especially if such intervention places you in a position of peril or such intervention requires that you behave recklessly, carelessly or in a suicidal manner.
3. While department policy mandates that you “take action” when witnessing a serious crime, that obligation is fulfilled by calling the police and monitoring the situation from a SAFE vantage point.
4. Most survival-conscious officers have trained themselves NOT to intervene off-duty UNLESS their life or the life of another innocent party is IMMINENTLY in danger. In other words, you should only consider intervention when deadly force would be justified. You should not intervene just to make an arrest while off-duty. The decision to take action, beyond simply reporting, is a personal one and is not a requirement of this department.
5. If you decide you must get involved, attempt to have someone call 911 advising the operator that an off-duty officer is on scene. Have the caller inform the operator if you are armed. If possible, have them describe you and your clothing. This will effect the mindset of the responding officers. When uniformed police officers arrive, have your badge out and visible. (if you carry your shield while off-duty, some officers carry only their photo credentials). Do not rely on showing your identification as a means of providing any protection. At a distance, in dim light and under stress, your badge may not be seen. Or, the identification may not be given credibility if the responding officers do not recognize you personally.
6. Some trainers advise officers to hold their badge next to their gun for the best chance of being seen because the eyes of the responding officers are most likely to go immediately to your drawn firearm. You’re probably safer to RE-HOLSTER your gun when other officers arrive, unless doing so would put you and the responding officers or innocent civilians, in jeopardy. Until the responding officers sort out who is who, your gun is your greatest personal liability.
7. If you have cover, maintain it. You can communicate verbally from there.
8. Make your hands visible. Having responding officers see that you are unarmed and non-threatening will work to calm them and protect you.
9. Verbally identify yourself as a police officer—not once and not in a normal tone of voice, but repeatedly and very loud. Keep shouting out: “POLICE! DON’T SHOOT! OFF-DUTY OFFICER!” until you get acknowledgment and directions as to what you should do. Remember, the noise and excitement of the scene, combined with stress induced auditory blocking may prevent responding officers from hearing you initially.
10. When commands are issued by the responding officers, follow them promptly and completely. Expect to be treated like a suspect until your law enforcement status is verified.
11. When carrying a firearm off-duty (including finishing or beginning a tour of duty), It shall be concealed from public view by an outer jacket, shirt, sweater etc. If an off-duty officer’s firearm is observed and prompts the response of police or security officials, the off-duty officer should respond in a manner consistent with this policy.
12. Finally, the most important rule of all: If you have a gun in your hand, NEVER, EVER turn toward an on-duty officer
IV. Reporting / Compliance: Whenever an officer becomes involved in an incident while in an off-duty capacity, he or she shall notify the commanding officer of the Patrol Bureau as soon as possible. The commanding officer shall require a written report on the incident that will be forwarded to the appropriate divisions. This report shall also be reviewed by the Training Academy staff in order to evaluate and update training for “off-duty” response.
V. Receipt/Dissemination: This policy shall be disseminated to all members of this department and shall be signed for as an acknowledgment of receipt.