Citizen's Guide to Armed Defense (2015)
CHAPTER SEVEN: POST-INCIDENT POLICE INTERACTION
A uniformed officer responds to a call of a possible burglary in the middle of the night, at an apartment building. As he arrives, he observes a subject and challenges him at gunpoint from a position of cover, “Police! Don’t move!” the subject draws a handgun and says, “Sheriff’s Office! Don’t you move!” The potentially lethal stand-off continues until the on-duty officer shines his flashlight at his uniform and says, “No, I’m really the police!,” at which time the off-duty deputy holsters his handgun.
Good, aggressive law enforcement officers are responding. How you mentally and physically prepare is vital to a safe interaction.
Yes, it really did happen and yes, it could have ended tragically for one or both in an incident in which the off-duty deputy was pulling his waterbed outside because it had sprung a leak. The police officer used cover but shining the flashlight on himself was a tactical blunder. Certainly the deputy was a victim of lack of training in this area and violated the most important rule:
Rule #1: On-duty officers are in charge! Do what they say, or you may get shot!
The dangers of intervention are highlighted by the Las Vegas incident where an armed citizen intervened in a big box store after a subject, who had just shot and killed two LVMPD officers, entered and fired a shot. But if you’ve intervened or if you’ve brandished your handgun in response to a threat, then the local police or sheriff’s office deputies are on the way, and failure to mentally and physically prepare many end in tragedy, including you being shot.
If a police officer arrives on this scene, even though this armed man is a police detective it can end tragically. He is holding his badge in his right hand where it cannot be seen by responding officers.
Just this year at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association conference during the “Deadly Force Panel of Experts” chaired by Massad Ayoob, this question was posed by the audience, “How should a police officer deal with an armed man who refuses to obey a police officer’s orders to drop his gun?”
My response was that there are no easy answers. From what we know about response time, an armed man can fire before an officer reacts and responds. Even lucky shots such as the “Gunman in the Lobby” we detailed in Chapter Three can occur and have fatal consequences.
Police are likely experiencing an SNS response after receiving a call such as “shots-fired, man down, armed citizen involved.” Remember that this sympathetic nervous system response may include: tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, reduced cognitive processing, inability to perform fine and complex motor skills. They are in a “fight or flight” mode, and since they’re coming in your direction the flight isn’t a concern, the looking for a fight is, and guess what? You just pointed a gun at someone, had a violent altercation or shot someone, and these hyped up officers are coming your way.
Even plainclothes, undercover or off-duty officers are not immune from this danger. In the 1970s, plainclothes cops in New York City were being shot by responding uniformed officers. This resulted in the “Color of the Day” being briefed at roll calls. “The color of the day is blue,” which meant that undercover or plainclothes officers would pull out blue armbands or headbands when taking enforcement actions on the street. Verbal responses such as “I’m on the job!” were used with possible precinct assignment, etc., being asked by responding uniformed officers. With an authorized strength of over 30,000 cops, one can easily see that not every officer could possibly know every detective or plainclothes officer.
Fratricide or “blue-on-blue” shootings continue to be a problem to this day.
In 2010 the State of New York convened a task force on police-on-police shootings after several off-duty or plainclothes officers were shot by uniformed officers responding to or involved in “man with gun” calls, shootings or violent crimes in progress. Unfortunately, the task force had few police firearms and tactics instructors, and much of their work veered off course into the area of racial stereotyping and other issues of race. That said, their report Reducing Inherent Danger: Report of the Task Force on Police-on-Police Shootings contains some interesting points.
From that task force here are some proposed protocols:
For officers taking action out-of-uniform
1. Only intervene to protect personal safety or another’s safety: otherwise, be a good witness.
2. Inform the police dispatcher or call 911 if you are taking action, armed, and in plainclothes.
3. Display your shield prominently prior to taking action.
4. Identify yourself frequently and loudly as a police officer.
For confronted officers
1. Don’t move.
2. Avoid reflexive spin.
3. Identify yourself loudly as a police officer, using specific coded language.
4. Obey the commands of the confronting officer.
For officers challenging an armed individual
1. Don’t stereotype.
2. Take cover.
3. Shout clearly and repeat, “Police! Don’t Move!”
4. Broaden your focus from the gun to assess the situation.
For off-duty cops, I recommend the DSM - Don’t Shoot Me banner which is carried on the belt.
If we insert the phrase “armed citizen” or “concealed carry permit holder” or even “law abiding armed citizen” for “police officer” in the Confronted Officers section, we have some decent recommendations to follow.
The CCW DSM model is a smart addition for any concealed carry permit holder.
Further if we identify ourselves visually with a DSM - Don’t Shoot Me Banner from dsmsafety.com, we can lessen the chances of getting shot as well. These banners are worn in a small ballistic nylon carrier on the offside waist. You simply reach down; grab the loop at the top of the carrier and pull. The banner deploys and can be easily pulled over your head so a green high visibility banner with CCW or ARMED is prominently displayed across your chest and back.
Don’t think these issues are not important. Even members of the Secret Service and other state, local and federal plainclothes agents and officers have purchased the banners, some with money out of their own pocket. I have a couple of these DSM banners and wouldn’t hesitate to deploy in my own city, let alone out of town or out of state.
I worked as an undercover street narcotics detective for a number of years. My job was primarily to conduct surveillance of drug dealers and run “controlled buys” using confidential informants, but every once in a while I would have to take action to aid uniformed officers. Ditching my undercover car around a corner or out of sight, I’d pull my badge, which was on a chain around my neck, and proceed to help out.
I was fully conscious that even officers from my own agency could mistake me for a suspect in the dark.
Jim was a detective assigned to the vice unit. One time he was pursuing a suspect on foot through backyards. He was aggressively tackled by a uniformed officer who didn’t know him.
Don’t pursue a suspect on foot. That’s not your job, and with responding officers experiencing an SNS response and you in fight or flight as well, you may get shot.
RECOMMENDATIONS POST INCIDENT
1. Communicate your status via phone calls or have someone call for you. “Armed innocent citizen on scene.”
2. Describe your attire or have a caller describe you.
3. Holster your handgun or set down long-gun if at all possible.
4. Display your Don’t Shoot Me banner
5. Take some deep breaths (autogenic breathing) and start thinking
6. Expand your vision. It is entirely possible a plainclothes or off-duty officer may be on scene.
7. Anticipate that you will be challenged at gunpoint by aggressive uniformed officers under an SNS response.
8. Anticipate being ordered to a prone position and handcuffed. Do not resist!
9. Do exactly what the officers order you to do, including dropping your handgun.
10. Do not pursue the assailant on foot.
Massad Ayoob talks about sending out a “meeting party” away from you who can meet the police, advise the officers of what has gone on and what the current status is. This person should stand out in the open, under a light with arms raised. They too should expect to get proned out and handcuffed.
Reholstering is safer than standing with pistol drawn (if at all possible).
Dispatch will invariably ask you to put your gun down or secure it prior to the uniform response. This could be catastrophic if an attacker seizes that opportunity to disarm you or attack with their own gun. If you are holding a subject at gunpoint, communicate this to dispatch. Keep the line open even if you have to set the phone down. The open phone line will record any verbal orders or challenges from you to the suspect such as, “Don’t move, I told you not to move!” or verbal threats, scuffles, commands, shots, etc. that occur. Only when it is safe for you to holster should you do so.
Don’t relax too soon. As in the tragedy in Las Vegas, bad guys can have back-up too. Many law enforcement officers have been shot and killed or wounded by suspects lying in wait and protecting the “six o’clock” of their henchmen.
Just like the off-duty cop who has been involved in a shooting or violent confrontation, you must overcome the effects of the SNS response by autogenic breathing and then start thinking and preparing. Far too many law enforcement officers undercover, in plainclothes or off-duty have been shot in these types of scenarios. We need to learn from these tragedies and plan and prepare for it.
If you make the call to dispatch and the assailant is still on scene, you want to give a clear description of yourself and other family members or friends on scene so there is no confusion. Much, not all, of this information will be sent to the responding officers via their Mobile Digital Terminal (in car computer) on “call notes.” Unfortunately, you cannot expect officers responding to a hot call such as “shots fired” to read these notes on the way. They may get a little info, i.e.:
Dispatch: “Car 15”
Uniformed Officers: “Car 15, go ahead, Arlington and 5th.”
Dispatch: “Car 15 and any car in the area, Signal 33 (Shooting), 999 Baird St. Caller states that suspects kicked in the rear door and entered the residence and he fired shots at them. One suspect down, two other suspects left the scene on foot, unknown description.”
Uniformed Officers: “Car 15 copy.”
Dispatch: “Zero, One-Fifteen” (Time)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve responded to shootings or other violent calls with this little information relayed. MDTs have improved communications and information transfer from dispatch to the patrol officer, but you can’t count on it.
If the assailant has left the scene, information that should be relayed is:
· Where attacker is
· Whether they are armed
· If they fled the scene
· Direction of travel
· Physical description
· If they are down - have been shot
· Need for EMS or paramedics
Understand that paramedics won’t enter what they consider a “hot zone” without police presence.
My partner and I responded to a shots fired call and found a victim out in front of a tattoo business with apartments above it. There had been some kind of altercation and the tattoo artist had shot him from a window with a rifle. His femur had been broken and he couldn’t move and was bleeding pretty bad. With my partner providing cover, a civilian friend of the wounded man and I ran behind the car where he was hiding, scooped him up and ran back behind a brick building next door. The fire department paramedics had arrived and were half a block back. I waved for them to come up (we were completely hidden next to a brick building), but they wouldn’t do it. We had to carry the guy out to them.
Got to love fireman, the don’t want anything to do with bullets and gunfire (who does?) but they’ll still run into a burning building…
Massad Ayoob clearly makes the case for early communication post incident. His excellent book Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry: 2nd Edition clearly indicates that oftentimes the first person to call the police is construed as the victim. I could not agree more. Further, police often respond to fight calls or incidents where both parties involved claim innocence and insist the other side started it.
If the other party has friends or witnesses and you don’t, expect them to all point the finger at you regardless of your assailant’s guilt. If you have witnesses as well, police will take statements from both sides but unless there was a bus full of nuns who witnessed the incident, you will likely be treated as a suspect until your innocence is proven by investigators.
You have to understand that police have a very jaundiced eye and that everyone claims innocence. Even suspects with guns or dope found in their pockets exclaim, “Those ain’t my pants!” or “That’s not my gun!” Because of this, uniformed responding officers treat everyone in a shooting as a suspect at first. It is in their vital interest to secure and stabilize the scene.
You need to respectfully articulate, “I am the victim! That man tried to rob me!” or whatever the crime may be. As Mas Ayoob points out stating, “I will sign charges!” is a good thing because many police deal with uncooperative “victims” (usually bad guys themselves) who refuse to prosecute their assailants.
Avoid statements such as, “I didn’t mean to shoot him” or, “The gun just went off…” These types of statements indicate the shooting was not intentional or was accidental, which destroys an intentional self-defense claim later. These types of statements are made by law-abiding citizens who are not used to violence. What they really meant to say was, “I didn’t want to have to shoot him. He left me no choice.” These spontaneous utterances will be recorded by officers in their Action Taken reports or addendums to the investigator’s report and can hurt you later if/when you make an official statement.
Keep your mouth shut except for the following. Officers frequently get in trouble when they shoot their mouth off or make statements indicating anger. It is completely understandable why you might be fairly well upset about a man who just tried to kill you or your family but making statements such as, “F*ck you! You got what you deserved! I hope you f’ing die!” indicate anger to most witnesses. Verbal parting shots as the suspect is wheeled away on a paramedic gurney such as, “See you later sucker!” or similar will not go over well with a possible jury later.
Limit what you say to uniformed police on the scene or to investigators who show up. You do want to clearly state:
· You are the victim
· Where any evidence might be located such as empty casings
· You also want to indicate where you were, where they were and in which direction you and he fired
· Ask for a “victim advocate.” Most cities have victim advocacy programs that actually help victims of crime. They can provide emergency housing, advise you on the legal process and even provide funds for new deadbolts or a new door, for instance, if you cannot afford them. Victim advocates will “hold your hand” during the trial of your suspect and the involved legal process. Victim Assistance has been a long supported charity of my wife and mine, because they really help the victims of crime. That said some may be anti-gun, so they may elect not to aid you after a shooting.
Remember that everything you say will be recorded, and anticipate that everything will be captured on video tape as well. We’ll deal with the adverse impacts of memory and video evidence in the next chapter.
We had been chasing a B&E suspect from a business in our city through a swamp/wooded area to another town. One of our officers and one of their officers was hot on the suspect’s tail when our officer yelled, “Stop or I’ll shoot!” as a feign or fake to get the suspect to stop. (By the way, this never worked and frequently resulted in the suspect hitting “over-drive” and taking off.) The rookie officer from the other agency fired, however, missing with one round and striking the suspect in the buttocks with the other. I arrived on scene right after the shooting. After I left officers traced the line of fire and found a citizen dead, killed with a shot to the head, which came through the side of his house as he slept on a sofa in the front room.
The city where the other officer who fired worked was sued and settled out of court for a serious sum of money. The officer was terminated from the agency. In a serious miscarriage of justice, our officer was fired as well, even though threatening to shoot suspects who were running away had been done for years.
OTHER TYPES OF POLICE CONTACT
In over 32 years of carrying concealed, my armed status has never been detected by another non-law enforcement citizen.
Occasionally your pistol grips or holster may be seen and a citizen may call the police. Remember to keep hands away from the holstered handgun when they approach and follow their commands.
Many times CCW permit holders, even off-duty LEOs are paranoid about being detected. To the point of some permit holders not carrying because of this possibility. There may be a time, however, that despite properly concealing your firearm, another citizen detects your handgun based on “grip printing” (where the grips push out from the concealing shirt when you bend over), etc. With the proliferation of concealed carry throughout the U.S. this is certainly less of a problem than it used to be.
A coworker, a fully sworn police officer, was carrying openly on his belt after work, with his police badge pinned next to his holstered handgun. He was carrying out of the city at a soccer match where his daughter was playing. A school administrator approached him and stated, “The carrying of firearms is not allowed on school property.” The off-duty officer stated, “I’m a police officer.” The school principal said, “That doesn’t make any difference.” (One wonders what type of threat the principal must have felt to approach the officer to begin with, but understand that many anti-gun folks just don’t want guns around.) Despite the incidence of active killers on school properties and that this officer represented a protective option for the children at the game, the principal didn’t care. He walked off, got on his cell phone and called the local PD. When the police arrived, the off-duty officer walked over and identified himself and the on-duty copper told the principal the officer had every right to carry on school property.
An important note here is that the officer was prepared to leave the premises or secure his handgun in the trunk of his car, despite the legal right to carry on school premises, because he wanted to avoid a confrontation. This is one of the reasons open carry should be avoided, if at all possible.
It is interesting to note that police officers carrying under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which allows for nationwide concealed carry, must abide by the state laws where they are carrying. For instance, prior to Christmas a detective I worked with asked me about carrying in New York City. I pointed out that the S.A.F.E. Act in New York State restricts magazine capacity in that state for retired LEOs or officers from carrying from out of state. At the time of this writing, in New York state you cannot have magazines that can hold more than ten rounds. Further, only seven rounds can be loaded into these ten round magazines. That would prohibit my 15-round Glock 19 mags and I would be forced to carry my Glock 26 downloaded to seven in the magazine or my DoubleStar 1911 with only seven in the eight-round Wilson mags I carry. Now under the S.A.F.E. Act laws you are not limited in the number of seven round magazines you carry…? Go figure…
New York state compliant handgun, magazines and ammunition. DoubleStar 1911, Wilson mags loaded with seven rounds, carried in Crossbreed Holster.
In my state when concealed carry was first passed, the law required that permit holders expose their handgun after they got into a motor vehicle. The entire time they drove around, permit holders had to leave the gun exposed. Getting in/out of the car they had to remember to cover it or lift the garment over the holstered handgun. Fortunately in my state, the law has been changed. Know what your state law indicates and make sure you comply with it.
Further, my state still requires that:
“If a person is stopped for a law enforcement purpose and is carrying a concealed handgun as a CCW licensee, whether in a motor vehicle or not, he shall promptly inform the law enforcement officer that he is carrying a concealed handgun. In a vehicle, the licensee shall remain in the vehicle and keep his hands in plain sight at all times. Violating this section of law is a first-degree misdemeanor, and in addition to any other penalty handed down by a court, may result in the suspension of the person’s concealed handgun license for one year. A permit holder is not required to inform law enforcement of this status if he is not carrying a firearm.
If a person is stopped for a law enforcement purpose and is carrying a concealed handgun as a CCW licensee, whether in a motor vehicle or not, he shall not have or attempt to have any contact with the handgun, unless in accordance with directions given by a law enforcement officer. Violating this law is a felony and may result in permanent loss of the person’s handgun license.
If a person is stopped for a law enforcement purpose and is carrying a concealed handgun as a CCW licensee, whether in a motor vehicle or not, he shall not knowingly disregard or fail to comply with any lawful order given by any law enforcement officer. Violating this law is a first-degree misdemeanor and may result in the suspension of the person’s concealed handgun license for two years.
If the CCW licensee surrenders the firearm, then the following applies:
· If the firearm is not returned at the completion of the stop, the law enforcement officer is required to return the firearm in “the condition it was in when it was seized.”
· If a court orders the firearm’s return and the firearm has not been returned to the licensee, the CCW licensee can claim reasonable costs and attorney fees for the loss and the cost of claiming a firearm.
If you are pulled over while carrying a concealed handgun, remember the following:
· Before the officer approaches, roll down your window and place your hands in plain view on the steering wheel.
· Calmly tell the officer that you have a license to carry a concealed handgun and that you have a handgun with you. Ask if the officer has particular instructions concerning the handgun.
· Do not touch or attempt to touch your handgun unless specifically told to by the officer.
· Do not exit your vehicle unless specifically told to by the officer.
· Comply with all lawful orders given by the officer.
Ohio’s Concealed Carry Laws and License Application, Attorney General Mike DeWine, 4/7/14
These recommendations are what I would do and have done as an off-duty police officer carrying concealed during a traffic stop, and what I have recommended to police and private citizen students alike during these types of police contacts.
About a month ago I received this email from a former student of mine advising me that he had followed his training after he was stopped for speeding through a school zone:
“After pulling me over, the officer took my license back to his car. He showed back up at my driver’s side window several minutes later and his first question to me was, “who taught your CCW class?” I answered that it was a man named Kevin Davis that taught me back in 2008. The officer asked, “Kevin Davis from the XXXX Police Department?” He told me that he knew you, and wanted to let me know that you did an excellent job at instructing the CCW class as I performed properly as a CCW holder during the traffic stop.”
The student was released with a warning.
Note that these directions apply within the State of Ohio and pertain to CCW permit holders acting within the state as well as permit holders from other states with which Ohio has a reciprocity agreement or other states which Ohio recognizes for CCW. You are responsible to know the laws of any state where you carry and your responsibility to advise law enforcement personnel of your status if applicable.
For more information, check out the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, Gun Laws section for a compendium of state firearms laws, or to view “State Laws at a Glance” at nraila.org/gun-laws.aspx or a variety of sources that show reciprocity maps and links for state laws.