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Informed, safe and secure
By Gary Brown
Published: 10/15/2007

Gun We have all heard the stories about off-duty officers becoming involved in shootings. This will be more prevalent as our population increases. It doesn't matter if your jail houses 2 or 20,000.

Mine currently has around 200. We as COs are in continuous contact with our inmate populations, especially at the county jail level, where we spend more time with inmates than we do with our families. This creates familiarity, good and bad, with our local inmate population.

While they’re in the facility, it seems like they have nothing better to do than sit and think about ways to mess with us. Then we see most of these people on the outside where we go - at the grocery store, the mall, the department store, etc. This is where the issue occurs where we deal with people as an authority figure inside with the advantage of O/C, expandable batons, and tasers.

On the outside though, we are faced with a situation that finds most of unarmed and with our family. If you deal with a lot of inmates, you may not know their names, or even recognize them once they are not wearing orange jumpsuits. One thing you can be sure of, if you have had any kind of unpleasant incident with them or their buddies, they will recognize you. They might see you as a badge-heavy bully who works at the jail just to have power over other people. Now whether that is the case or not, that's how they see us.

What to do then? There are several ways we can protect ourselves.

Carry concealed off-duty - If your agency has a policy in place that you may carry a concealed, approved firearm off-duty, then do it. Follow your agency's policy and keep it concealed. If your agency does not have a policy in place, ask your supervisor what the agency's stance is on carrying off-duty

Remember, if you are a qualified law enforcement officer for your state, you can carry concealed off-duty. As long as you have your commission card, badge, and you keep your firearm concealed. If there is no policy for your agency, and you are not considered a LEO by your state statute (check it out, most are), get a concealed carry permit. You have a right to protect yourself and your family, period.

If you get involved in a shooting while off duty, make sure the 911 call includes the information that you are an off duty officer and you are legally armed. When the police get there, do as they say. They will not know you are an officer, so do not show them your gun until you are asked. They might shoot you. Respond to their commands to the letter. I know this sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised.

Train your family - We all go to schools, academies, etc. where we learn about 'hyper-awareness' and other ways that we change when we become LEOs. We need to keep our families aware of the dangers we face each day, at work or not. Make them aware of what should happen if you are approached or attacked while off duty with family present.

Have a single word that will indicate to your family that they need to get to a safe place. My family's is 'Walk'. My wife and kids know that if I look at them and say 'walk' in a direct tone, they are to immediately leave the area and get to a safe place, No questions asked..

We practice this from time to time just to keep ourselves sharp. This is important, we never know how many seconds we have between recognizing a possible threat and reacting to it. If they ask why, or what, that may be the few seconds we need to react. Teach your spouse and kids that if something happens, they should get to a safe place and call 911.

If you are shot, tell them to not come to your aid, but stay behind cover and be a good witness (much easier said than done). If they try to help you, that is just more factors you have to deal with and could be the difference between life and death.

Make sure that your family is aware of their surroundings - You may not realize that the guy watching you and your family while at the grocery store, just saw your family and now knows what you drive as you leave.

He also now knows where you live after following you and your family home a few cars back. He also knows your work schedule. You locked him down for fighting a few months ago, and now he is out of jail and wants some payback.

This is an area where we do not play 'what if' enough. Come up with scenarios and ask your family how they would react. We need to keep our families informed, safe, and secure. We are here to protect and serve. This does not exclude our families who are at the same risk we are. Don't forget to prepare your family.

Gary Brown is a Corporal in the Detention Division of the Laramie County Sheriff's Office in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He also is a Direct Supervision Field Training Officer, Chief Detention Firearms Instructor, NRA Law Enforcement handgun/shotgun/rifle instructor, Security Emergency Response Team member, and member of the Color/Honor Guard. After serving in the U.S. Air Force in the mid-1990s, Brown worked at the Garvin County Sheriff's Office in Oklahoma where he gained most of his operations knowledge.


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