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Always Armed, Always On Duty

The active shooter in both schools and workplaces and the inability of dispatched patrol units to reach the scene in time has become yet another good reason for always carrying a firearm off duty. Always armed, always on duty, with realistic training and suitable firearms is one of the few real answers to the complex timeframe problem presented by the active shooter. And it is an answer to the stat that 14% of murdered police officers are killed while off duty.

Off-duty carry, in turn, raises many questions. Of course, a whole new chapter to the policy and procedures manual will have to be written. No kidding, the term “off-duty carry” needs to be defined. Does it mean the firearm must be on their person, period? How about in a hand-carried handbag? How about a gun kept in the personal car or take-home car, but not actually carried?

Is off-duty carry going to be optional or mandatory? And if mandatory, what if the officer is just going a few blocks to the local grocery store? And under what circumstances will the “always armed, always on duty” officers be required to take action? The protection of property?

Is the department going to buy the off-duty gun? Or require the officer to carry the duty gun while off duty? Is the off-duty gun going to be a smaller version of the same make, model and caliber of the duty gun, i.e., an off-duty Glock 27 to go with the duty Glock 22? Or should the department transition from a larger duty gun to a mid-size duty gun and carry it for both duty and off-duty use, i.e., from a 4.5-inch Glock 22 to a 4-inch Glock 23?

Or, instead of buying, is the department just going approve a personally owned off-duty gun? If so, what is that approval process? With two generations of officers now trained on auto pistols, are you going to allow the use of revolvers? Or, with a double-action-only duty gun like a Glock, are you going to allow the use of a single-action-only off-duty gun like a Colt 1911-pattern pistol?

How about caliber and stopping power? Are you going to let your officers tackle an active shooter armed with a 12-gauge shotgun or AK47 rifle with his 25 ACP off-duty gun? How about the gun itself? Wanna take on an active shooter with an off-duty pocket pistol the size of a pack of cigarettes?

And the qualifying course of fire? Of course, officers must qualify with their off-duty gun. But will you use the same course of fire as for the duty gun? Or will you use a scaled-back version, i.e., just delete some of the longer range stages? Or will you use a down-sized version, i.e., shoot the duty gun’s 25-yard barricade stage from 15 yards for the off-duty gun?

And the gear? Is a second magazine going to be required? Will handcuffs also be required? Will a cell phone, in lieu of a police radio, also be required? How about the holster? Is the friction from a sleeve-style, in-pants holster secure enough? Or are you going to require some sort of security device like a snap or strap? And exact placement of the clip-on badge with respect to the off-duty gun? All this needs to be sorted out.

And the off-duty awareness course? Exactly how are you going to have your officers identify themselves? Your off-duty officers in sleeveless shirts, cut offs and sandals pointing a pocket pistol at someone need to be trained how not to be shot by responding uniformed officers. This is a deadly reality. About 15% of all line-of-duty, friendly fire deaths have come from mistaken identity.

Just 30% of police departments conduct some kind of off-duty use-of-force or off-duty confrontation training. That is going to bite the lagging departments because the area of training and off-duty guns has indeed risen to the level of court rulings. For example, if you know for a certainty that your officers carry guns off duty but have not been trained in this aspect, check out Brown v. Gray (10th Cir.). I have opinions for all these questions, but here is the bottom line. Carry an off-duty gun you can fight with, and train accordingly.

Ed Sanow is the editorial director of Tactical Response magazine. He can be reached at

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2008

Rating : 9.5

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Posted on : Oct 8 at 10:37 AM By JIM TIZZIO

Can I get the citation No. for Brown V. Gray, thanks.

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