You may recall my earlier post, A Concealed Carry License Holder Writes his Local Sheriff, where I queried my county sheriff, Pat Garrett, about how interactions between armed citizens and LEOs (Law Enforcement Officials) are conducted. Sheriff Garret’s reply was so timely I missed it my email inbox. Here it is . . .
Hi [name redacted]. Thank you for a very detailed email. I think your recommendation to get word out to our CHL (Concealed Handgun License) community about what to do when armed and encountered by police is an awesome idea. I will take it up with our training team.
A few initial impressions in response which I hope you will find helpful, and I trust you’ll let me know if they are not. From my personal experience and work with other deputies and police over the years:
- Your interest in police training and equipment is very reasonable. Attending our Citizen’s Academy is the best mechanism to learn, and I think you would be an awesome addition to our next class. Let me know if you’re interested and we can send you dates.
- We do not assume an armed citizen is a criminal or engaged in criminal activity. An encounter with an armed citizen is not by itself such an indicator to well trained police. That’s been the case in my 24 years in the business.
- To your question about being armed and encountering police – simply inform them in a very calm way that, “I am a concealed handgun license holder and currently posses a P220 .45 handgun in a holster on my right hip” (statement adjusted, depending on what you have and where). Then do exactly as the deputy or officer says. I have personally made a similar statement on two separate occasions when armed and off duty. The officer instructed me accordingly, he took physical possession of my handgun – I did not touch it, then when all was secure, returned it.
- [Phydeaux], you’re right on target about what to do, should you ever be required to use a firearm for protection – re-holster. When you perceive or become aware that police are arriving, I recommend you go hands in the air and announce and respond as above.
Thanks again. Have a good weekend.
Sheriff Garrett’s reply conveys some good information. To learn more about deputy’s equipment and procedures (always good justification for one’s own equipment and actions in a DGU or Defensive Gun Use), I’ve applied to the Citizen’s Academy. Should I be accepted and it doesn’t conflict with work, I’ll report back what I learn.
The second bullet on deputy/police attitudes towards armed citizens I’ll take with a grain of salt. While I’m sure they do train LEOs in the way described, how much of that “takes” probably varies from individual to individual.
The jurisdiction is likely another big variable – as a whole, LEOs in Chicago or San Francisco probably have a different attitude in this area than LEOs in the Portland, Oregon metro area, Utah or Arizona. While I carry every day, with any luck I’ll never find out LEOs’ attitudes because I’ll never come in contact with one or be involved in a DGU.
The answer about disclosing you’re armed was good, but did not address one of my original questions about how disclosure requirements vary between a simple contact and detention – I sent a follow up question seeking clarification, and here is his reply (emphasis added by me):
Simple Contact: Absent responsible suspicion or probable cause, police can attempt to strike up a conversation with anyone. The person is free to walk away and not say a word. I have always known these interactions to be simply “citizen contacts”. It’s important for us to demonstrate to the person if they chose to stop and talk that they are free to leave at any time, and their contact with us is consensual. Much crime gets solved by inquisitive police officers simply being proactive, inquisitive and starting out on this level with someone who may appear totally innocuous to definitely up to no good. If the person is armed they are under no obligation to report to the police. However, if a police officer has asked you to stop and talk I think the best response is to cooperate and be very open and, if armed, to advise that you are armed.
Reasonable Suspicion Stop: Police can stop or detain a person under circumstances where a reasonable person would conclude, based on facts and circumstances, that a crime has been or is about to be committed. You rightfully refer to this scenario as a Terry Stop under Terry v. Ohio (1967). If police reasonably suspect that the person is armed or dangerous they may conduct a pat-down along with a reasonable inquiry. You can bet a pat-down will take place in the vast majority of these circumstances. If the person is armed and not already advised police, I highly recommend if police ever start to frisk the person who is armed that the person inform police in the manner described in my last email [above] in order to best protect you, the officer and those around you.
Probable Cause Arrest: Of course police may make an arrest if they have probable cause to believe the person has committed a crime, is the subject of an arrest warrant, has committed a restraining order violation and in other certain unique less common cases. Following arrest, police may search for dangerous weapons or items of escape.
Regarding actions after a DGU, his recommendation to re-holster and announce in a non-threatening position seems logical.
Now, I realize that as a county sheriff, Pat Garrett is a politician but his willingness to provide meaningful and understandable responses to my questions is pretty impressive. I would hope all sheriffs and police chiefs would respond like this, but somehow I doubt many would.
So there you have it. While it’s nice to have my understanding of contacts, detentions and arrest validated, I think the parts about how to interact with police when armed – especially after a DGU – was most valuable to me, and hopefully for you, too.