Off Duty Response

Do you consider yourself to be “always on duty?” Are you a police officer 24/7/365 no matter where you are or what may actually be doing? If so, I complement you on both your pride in your chosen profession and your realistic view of modern law enforcement. Whether your department tells you so or whether you simply figured it out on your own, law enforcement is one of the few professions which extend beyond a specific shift or duty stations. But having this mindset is not enough; you also need to have a plan.

If you are truly “always on duty,” then you need to be prepared to respond when off the clock. Doing so without a plan can be foolish, even dangerous, for both you and responding uniformed officers as well.

  1. Be a good witness first. Regardless of what some of the young hard chargers may think, not every incident requires your involvement, especially if you are off the clock. Personally, I would recommend against active involvement unless you find yourself, another officer or member of the public in harm’s way. Otherwise, be a good witness. As a trained observer you should be able to provide a better than average account of the incident which may in itself make the difference between an open case and a guilty verdict.
  2. Know your limitations. Everyone has limitations and when you are off duty, out of uniform and without many of the modern tools and toys that hang from our duty belts or fill our trunks; these limitations must be taken into account. Chances are you have less firepower than normal, may not be dressed for a foot chase or wrestling match and are definitely not wearing a ballistic vest while grocery shopping. If things appear to be more than you can handle, back off and wait for the Calvary. Re-read number one while you wait.
  3. FirearmAlways identify yourself. More than one off duty or plain clothes officer has been mistakenly shot because other officers did not know who they were. Do not let the next casualty be you. Announce yourself. Have your shield and ID readily visible. Do whatever it takes to make sure EVERYONE knows who you are.
  4. Communications is vital. If you are going to get involved in an off duty encounter, it is vital that someone know what is happening; this usually means dispatch. Call prior to getting involved and stay on the phone if possible, or have someone else relay information for you. Make sure you identify yourself, that you are in plain clothes and how responding units can identify you upon arrival.
  5. Follow the officer’s commands. We have all seen situations which spiral out of control simply because someone fails to follow an officer’s instructions. Now imagine if you are responding to a “man with gun” call and arrive to find 2 men with guns – one of whom is refusing to put his down when instructed to. This is exactly what an off duty officer looks like to responding units. Remember this and comply with all instructions. Identify yourself as soon as possible but do so without appearing to be aggressive or non-compliant.

Chances are good that you will be involved in an off duty incident at some point while working in law enforcement. Follow these tips in order to have a plan should you need to act quickly.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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1 thought on “Off Duty Response

  1. If an off duty officer, nurse, dipatcher or any other person trained in uniform and off the clock do they under some kind of obligation except moral to respond to someone in need of CPR or other medical emergency? Has there been an civil suits that have arisen due to lack of participation in this type of situation?

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