Part 2: Staying Safe & Effective Off-Duty

By Calibre Press  |   Nov 25, 2020

Following up on the first installment of a series about staying safe and effective if you find yourself forced to engage in an off-duty armed encounter, here are some additional tips and considerations:

Making the decision to get involved.

There are three things you should consider before deciding to get involved in an off-duty encounter:

Emergency/Urgency: Is it an emergency? Is it urgent that I get involved? Is someone about to be seriously injured or killed?

Importance: How important is it that I get involved? Is an officer about to get beat up unless I step in?

Lack of Urgency: Is this something that can be resolved without my involvement?

Create a family plan.

It’s critical that your family members know how to act appropriately should you be forced to engage in an off-duty confrontation in their presence. Creating a plan can mean the difference between safely resolving the situation or causing a disaster. Some important suggestions:

— Have your spouse and children walk on your reaction side. If you need to draw your weapon, you want your gun hand to be free from obstruction.

— Be sure to teach your spouse and children never to grab your gun arm if a threat surfaces. Again, you need unimpeded access to your firearm.

— Train your family members to understand that if you sweep them aside it’s a signal to run and get help. If you sweep them behindyou, it’s a signal to crouch down and stay there until you tell them it’s safe to run. Be sure they understand that they are to run immediately after you tell them to. The longer they remain at the scene, the more likely you’ll be to make tactically unsound decisions in an effort to protect them.

— Your family should know to phone for uniformed help as soon as they’re able. It is critically important that they explain that you are an armed off-duty officer in plain clothes engaged in a confrontation. They should describe what you’re wearing and share any other immediately identifiable information that will help responding officers recognize you. You want to be sure uniformed officers dispatched to the scene expect your presence and avoid making a deadly mistake.

— Before uniformed officers approach, have your badge and credentials clearly visible and be sure you verbally ID yourself several times in a loud, clear voice the moment they arrive: “I’m a police officer! I’m a police officer! I’m a police officer!” High stress situations can impact hearing so make yourself heard and understood.

— Teach your family members the difference between—and how to take advantage of—cover and concealment. In a gunfight, this can mean the difference between life and injury or death.

— Be sure your family knows not to yell “Oh my God!” or something similarly ambiguous if a threat appears. “Oh my God!” focuses your attention on them, not the threat. Consider creating a code word they can use that will alert you to the fact that a serious threat is present and puts you in the appropriate use-of-force mind-set and prepared to scan for a gun or other weapon and readying to defend yourself against one.

— Rehearse your emergency plan with your family regularly.

— The emotional aftermath of a critical incident can be difficult for everyone involved. Remember that your family members will also need emotional support after a potentially traumatic event.

A couple of tactical tidbits.

— Both officers and suspects can experience auditory exclusion—limited hearing—in high stress encounters. Keep this in mind when issuing commands to a suspect who may be experiencing this phenomenon. Keep your commands short, loud and simple: “No! Back! Down! Stop!” Simultaneously give corresponding hand gestures so that even if he doesn’t hear you, he can understand what you are ordering him to do.

— Realistic training is an important key to survival in both on- and off-duty encounters. Remember to train in a variety of settings: on slippery surfaces, on uneven ground, in dim or no light, while sitting down, while pinned in a corner…

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Calibre Press has 37 years in the business of keeping officers safer, smarter and more successful, from rookie to retirement.