April 10, 2018

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They’re Packing! Law Enforcement Interaction with Lawfully Armed People

Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip deals with what we as law enforcement officers should do when we encounter someone who may be carrying a gun lawfully.  

We have no way of knowing whether an armed person is carrying a weapon lawfully or not. 

It is very likely that each of you will encounter someone who is lawfully armed. It could be during a traffic stop. It could be during a call for service. We might just see someone carrying a gun when we are out on patrol.  

There are many people across the United States who are authorized by law to carry a weapon. The person with a gun could be an off-duty retired law enforcement officer. The person could be a civilian with an appropriate permit. The person could also be a criminal intent on doing harm.  

The simple truth is that we do not have a foolproof and perfectly safe way to tell the difference. We have no way of knowing whether an armed person is carrying a weapon lawfully or not. And, even if the weapon is being carried lawfully, we have no way of knowing whether a person intends to use the weapon against us or someone else.  

As you might have guessed, I cannot give you a one-size-fits-all solution. I can say that we must consider individual rights and officer safety. The “right” thing to do will vary dramatically depending on your training, your agency, your state and the unique facts of the situation. 

Here are a few things that you should do. Avoid complacency. Use appropriate tactics. Watch the hands. Use available cover and concealment. Request, and wait for, back-up when appropriate. Do not place yourself unnecessarily in harm’s way. Remain polite and professional.  

And remember that a good explanation about the risks we face, and our desire to return home to our families, can go a long way with someone who seems offended that we were cautious. 

Please maintain a good working knowledge of search and seizure, your state’s law, and your department’s expectations. If you have questions, you should ask them now and not wait until after your next encounter.  

That’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham, signing off.  

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