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Off-Duty Survival – A Refresher


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  • Off-Duty Survival – A Refresher

    Off-Duty Survival – A Refresher

    By: Jonathan D. Greenstein

    October 29, 2010

    The following article is a complication of lessons learned, best practices and the author’s personal experiences: It does not reflect any official agency position or policy. Before applying anything contained herein, ensure you consult your agencies policies and procedures and competent advisors.

    Recent events have reinforced the fact that violence can erupt anywhere and at any time. Places of worship, schools, malls, hospitals and public streets have all borne witness to this. You could be returning home after a late night trip to the pharmacy and be challenged by a drug seeker; a quick stop to visit your spouse could lead you into a workplace violence situation; a trip to the park could find you in the middle of gang violence. In addition to the potential to cross paths with a violent actors, you may witness a suspicious incident, vehicle or otherwise. The need to be mentally and tactically prepared is paramount to your survival.

    No one expects you to remain hyper-vigilant at all times, but the training and experience we share as law enforcement professionals can not only serve our respective communities when we are off-duty but also potentially save lives. The shocking fact is that a reported 14% of LEO murders occur while the officer is off-duty, having the right mentality and tools available could help reduce this unacceptable number.

    Countless articles and training scenarios have been developed on the topic of off-duty safety and survival, this is not intended to supplant other authorities nor alter your respective agencies policies or procedures. This is a compilation of the Authors personal and professional experiences, observations, and is a reminder of the topics importance. It is incumbent upon the reader to assess the particulars of the situation at hand and make appropriate decisions.

    Maintain Awareness: You have honed your skills as a trained observer; pay attention to those details and behaviors that would prompt a field contact while on-duty. In the off-duty mode you will likely not be making direct contact with a subject, but you should be prepared to notify the appropriate entity for their assistance and response if warranted.

    An unattended vehicle in close proximity to a critical facility or government building, seeing someone loitering in the shadows of an ATM, a bag sitting unattended at the local fair; all may justify a quick stop and call to 9-1-1. Observe and report unless the situation requires immediate intervention on your part.

    Make Tactically Sound Decisions: Yes, you are sworn to protect and serve, but if you enter into a situation and fall victim, you have just increased the body count and may unwittingly compromise responding officers by potentially providing an adversary additional firepower. If you succumb to overly inquisitive behavior and examine a suspicious package, you could cause its detonation.

    In most cases, unless the decision to actively engage is driven by an obvious need to protect life; the best option may be to observe and report. Just as you would normally wait for backup in non-critical on-duty situations, the same applies, possibly more so when off-duty.

    Be Prepared: The mantra of the Boy Scouts is to always be prepared. The same applies to law enforcement professionals. If you are carrying your badge and ID, you should be carrying your firearm. The same applies in reverse. Ensure you follow your respective agencies policies and procedures regarding off-duty carry of firearms and conduct.

    Have the Right Tools: If you carry off duty, be it by choice or requirement, have the right tools. The investment in a quality holster, reloads and the means to summon assistance will pay dividends down the road. Just as you look for the best quality gear for duty use, you should apply the same logic to the selection of off-duty equipment. Too often, some cops skimp on off-duty holsters because of their infrequent use; this is faulty logic. At a minimum the holster selected should provide for concealment and retention. Style, fit and comfort are ultimately personal choice but don’t trade comfort and style for safety.

    Some off-duty officers carry a near duty compliment of equipment to include OC, cuffs and an expandable baton. Some have positioned that without those intermediate levels of force, you may be forced to employ deadly force when lesser options could have been leveraged. My take on this is that you are off duty and unless mandated by policy or law, you are carrying for self defense, not enforcement action. To further my position, I have noted that actively engaging a subject is the last resort and only when it is a life or death situation. The decision as to what and how to carry off-duty may be personal choice and one that you must decide upon.

    On the topic of off-duty carry, ensure you are concealing your firearm properly. By virtue of the definition of concealed, it should be just that; concealed. Out of sight but on your mind should resonate. Properly concealing your firearm could avoid confrontation, alarm the public and provide a tactical advantage.
    Know the Law: If you are within the confines of your jurisdiction, you may be required to act in a law enforcement capacity regardless of your being off-duty; this does not always mean that you must rush into every situation that calls for police intervention, it means you must act appropriately. Ensure you are well versed not only on the requirements, but any applicable restrictions that may apply to you.

    Consider investing in your union’s legal defense plan and look into stand alone coverage that may provide for legal assistance if you are involved in a LEOSA covered shooting. There are numerous plans available and given the exorbitant costs of a decent lawyer, the investment may turn out to be the best investment of your professional life.

    LEOSA: With the recent amendment to the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (18 US Code 926 (b) and (c), the number of law enforcement officers who can carry nation-wide is at an all time high. While this provides for license-free carry by qualified personnel and those who separated after 10 years of service, it also presents an additional factor to consider; should you actively engage a perpetrator, the potential for another well intentioned LEO to mistake you for the bad guy also exists. The intent of LEOSA is to provide qualified LEOs the ability to carry a firearm for their self defense. It does not extend your enforcement authority beyond what it currently is for active law enforcement personnel. For “retired” officers, you are essentially nothing more than a private citizen, who is exempt from most concealed firearm licensing requirements.
    Before you elect to carry under the provisions of LEOSA or the recent amendments, ensure you are familiar with your agencies policies and any state requirements. One notable example is the requirement for 10-year separated officers is that they qualify on an annual basis in order for them to be allowed to carry. Such qualification is at the separated officers own expense and the agency from which you separated or retired from is not required to provide the annual certification. The recent amendment provides former officers the ability to qualify with instructors certified to qualify law enforcement officers; this can vary in requirements from state to state as to who may certify you, do your research.

    Act the Part: Should you decide that the only option is to actively engage a subject, follow the training and tactics that fit the situation. Clear, concise, authoritative commands and presence will not only leverage that training, but may help to resonate that you are in-fact a LEO.

    Remember contact, cover, concealment, tactical moves and engagement protocol. You likely will not have the benefit of coordinated backup, a vest or other equipment; act accordingly. When the Cavalry arrives, if you can safely holster; do so and maintain a non-threatening stance. Vocalize that you are an off-duty LEO, but do not go reaching for your badge. If ordered to drop your weapon and prone out; do it without hesitation. Too many off-duty and plain clothes officers have died at the hands of fellow officers who did not recognize them as brothers in blue when they were encountered at gunpoint.

    Dress the Part: As cited in numerous advisories, alerts and over the course of training programs: cops tend to stand out. Be it the physique, haircut, swagger when we walk or something in the air. While some of those factors are ingrained, the need to avoid displaying obvious signs of law enforcement affiliation is obvious; it could potentially provide the difference between being singled out in a hostage situation or otherwise going unnoticed. We are proud of our profession, but wearing that pride on our sleeve, or in this case, brazenly displayed in the form of a lodge logo on your shirt or jacket may be too obvious for safety.

    Near universal advice for staying low key is wholly supported by the Author. Even if your intended location is the department picnic, wearing a cover-up over the Law Dawgs Jersey may be advisable for the trip to and from. The same applies on the way home after shift when you are not able to change into civilian attire. Even a slightly large oxford can serve the purpose of a cover-up, even if it clashes with those navy blue trousers.
    Conclusion: The statistics and recent events reinforce the need to remain vigilant. Your off-duty time is when you allow yourself to disconnect from the stresses of the job, enjoy that valuable time off but don’t succumb to blissful blindness. If you elect to or are required to carry off-duty, make tactically sound decisions in carry method, attire and action.

    You may be the intervening factor in a life or death situation, but remember that unless the situation requires immediacy of action, the best course may be to observe and report.

    About the Author:Jonathan Greenstein has been involved in law enforcement and public safety for over fifteen years, having served as a patrol officer, field training officer, watch commander and criminal investigator. A graduate of numerous advanced training programs to include Hostage and Crisis Negotiations, Active Shooter Response and Tactical Operations; he applies his professional experience and training to the development best practices, policy and in the law enforcement oversight and advisory role. His most recent publications include articles related to officer safety, risk assessment and monographs that identify cues of terrorist activity and radicalization indicators.

    He currently serves as the District of Columbia representative for the International Association of Hostage Negotiators. He may be contacted by email through: [email protected]

    References and Further Reading:

    Disclaimer: The presence of citations, links and their respective content are provided for the reader’s further research. The presence of such and any content therein may not reflect the Authors opinion, does not imply endorsement by the Author or any particular agency. Due to the dynamic nature of policies, procedures, tactics and the law, it is incumbent upon the reader to ensure they apply common sense and seek clarification where a question exists.

    1. Law Officer Article: “Off-Duty Survival”: http://www.lawofficer.com/article/ma...-duty-survival

    2. Street Survival Seminar-Course Outline: http://www.calibrepress.com/data2/pd...2012-15-09.pdf

    3. Off-Duty and Plain-Clothes Survival Tactics: http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/o...encounters.ppt
    4. Off-Duty Preparedness: http://www.browardcrime.com/justifying.htm

    5. Police Link Article: “Off-Duty NYPD Cop Foils Robbery”: http://policelink.monster.com/news/a...ting-hair-done

    6. PoliceOne Off-Duty: http://www.policeone.com/off-duty/

    7. 18 USC 926 (b) (as of 10/28/10): http://uscode.house.gov/uscode-cgi/f...%28%29%20%20AN

    8. 18 USC 926 (c) (as of 10/28/10): http://uscode.house.gov/uscode-cgi/f...%28%29%20%20AN

    9. Fraternal Order of Police LEOSA Information (10/21/2010): http://www.fop.net/servlet/display/n...cache=26727631

    10. IL FOP: “Understanding LEOSA”: http://www.ilfop.org/PDF/UnderstandingLEOSA.pdf

    © 2010 Jonathan D. Greenstein, All Rights Reserved
    Originally posted by SSD
    It has long been the tradition on this forum and as well as professionally not to second guess or Monday morning QB the officer's who were actually on-scene and had to make the decision. That being said, I don't think that your discussion will go very far on this board.
    Originally posted by Iowa #1603
    And now you are arguing about not arguing..................

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