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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.

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  1. You have a Good county sheriff. He seemed helpful and interested in your questions and thoughts. He seems like a ‘good guy’. I might have to contact my own sheriff, under a different name, because he knows me, and see what his thoughts are on the same subjects.

  2. My one contact with a State Patrol trooper was interesting…

    I was stopped for “easing through” a stop sign (guilty as charged) and gave the trooper my carry permit along with my driver’s license, as I am required to do by law in this state. I told her I was carrying, whereupon she said, “Good for you! Next time – full stop. Have a good day and drive safely!” End of contact.

    Of course, I live in Nevada…

    • same thing literally happend to me here in Missouri. Told her I was armed, where it was, and asked what she wanted me to do while griping the wheel. I was doing 20 over and got a warning.

  3. It might be interesting to come up with a set series of questions, that TTAG readers can ask their local law enforcement office, and compare the results.

  4. While that’s way better than most police, why disarm?

    A gun that is not handled cannot go off. Therefore, the best thing for societal and officer safety is to leave law abiding gun owners alone. Hint, they’re the ones who don’t run when you ask them to stop for a word.

    • Why disarm is the correct question. I can tell you that in the two circumstances where I disclosed to LEOs that I was licensed and carrying, the officers were completely disinterested. They just shrugged and said “okay, just leave it where it is.” Interestingly, neither time was I asked to produce my LTC. Of course, I’m 64 and look harmless, but still. . . .

      Not all cops are professional ball-busters. Some are just neighbors in uniform.

    • Actually in some cases a firearm can discharge on it’s own if it has a hair trigger, old gun or if it isn’t taken care of properly.

  5. “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.”

    Sheriff, could I get you to write a letter explaining that to Philadelphia, PA chief of police Ramsay? Thanks! 😉

    • techically, he is Commissioner Ramsey. Sounds more impressive, despite his failure to stem the flow of innocent blood there

    • In Philly you will be taken down, they will step on your head and cuff you. The gun will be removed and kicked across the pavement where some ham-fisted cop will try to figure out how to unload it and throw it on the hood of his car. You will be told that if you open your mouth they will fucking shoot you and then they will scream more obscenities at you while accusing you of looking for trouble.
      At least this is what they did when someone carried open last summer. And recorded it all on tape.

      • I assume you’re talking about Mark Fiorino. I don’t recall seeing anything about the police stepping on his head in the complaint.

        Hopefully his lawsuit will result in PPD getting the legal beatdown they richly deserve.

  6. Willing to bet a good bit of his success in getting elected as County Sheriff has to do with his name. Much like Kevin Bacon’s success is related to people’s love for Bacon. That said, he does seem like a pretty legit dude, thanks for sharing!

  7. One general critique I have of police is related to something the police chief mentioned about the officer removing your gun…

    Because doing so is inherently dangerous and therefore puts you, him, and bystanders at risk, I don’t think police should be unholstering/manipulating any firearm unless there is a really (really) good reason to do so. This includes their firearms and yours.

    Good reasons to unholster/manipulate their firearms are obvious.

    Good reasons to unholster/manipulate yours would be if you are under arrest or if are behaving in a way that suggests you are a danger to yourself or others.

    A good reason for them to unholster/manipulate your firearm is not merely the LEO’s awareness that you have a gun. Unholstering/manipulating someone else’s gun is extra dangerous since holsters are designed for the wearer to draw (not someone else), the LEO will not necessarily be familiar with your holster, and will not necessarily be familiar with your handgun.


    • the LEO . . . will not necessarily be familiar with your handgun.

      The LEO will not necessarily be familiar with his own gun, much less yours.

    • I agree. I would not feel comfortable with anyone attempting to draw out of my holster while I am wearing it. I would advise the officer that I would feel much more comfortable if he let me hand it to him in its holster, even if it ment me pulling off my belt and possibly having my pants fall down. All of my CCW holsters are designed with retention devices to prevent others from being able to draw from them.

  8. The only reason I can think of for a cop to take your gun on a “contact”, in the absence of any hostile or suspicious activity, is because he’s about to do something that may make you want to shoot him. What might that be, and why doesn’t he just not do it?

    • As I tell my classes, you never really know why a LEO stops you. He could be looking for a person wearing (pick out something a student has on) who just held up a convenience store. Coincidences happen.

  9. I don’t need permission to be able to defend myself. The 2nd amendment is my carry permit, period. All these gun laws are pure tyranny.

  10. May I add an obvious oversight that occurs when the result is that your gun is removed/exposed……you are no longer carrying concealed for those witnessing the event; you’ve been outed. Wide range of conquncenses. The better the cop the better for all.

  11. As a former officer; LAPD, NPS Ranger, Border Drug Task Force, I have never required a citizen to surrender his/her weapon unless I had cause to believe they were a threat. As I would tell rookies and other officers, a holster is a safety device so why don’t we all just keep our guns in our holsters, have our contact and be on our way. Officers are typically trained with only one weapon, typically a Glock safe action sort of pistol. They are often a danger to everyone around when a 1911 in condition one is encountered. Most cops are not experts in gun handling and are more dangerous than the citizen they are contacting when handling unfamiliar weapons.

  12. why do you think it would be a good idea, to take possession of an innocent person’s gun? All that extra handling, increases the possibility of an accident. My gun is safest when left alone in its holster and so is yours.

  13. I question whether any officer has the authority to disarm anyone merely to hold a conversation with them, UNLESS it’s in statute. If it is merely “police department procedure” then it is not law, and shouldn’t affect any CHL/CPL holder. Again, if it’s not law, a policeman has no authority to ask a citizen to disarm for the safety of the officer.
    I know that this is a touchy area, but sometimes they must be reminded that they don’t MAKE law, only catch bad guys after they have done harm.

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