Saturday, June 17, 2023

Should You Inform A Law Enforcement Officer That You're Armed When Engaged By One?

I was in law enforcement for 32 years. If I got stopped, or otherwise was officially engaged by a LE officer, while on duty or off duty, I made it a habit of telling the officer that I was armed. It is what I was trained to do by my LE Firearms Instructors and what I trained others to do during my 16 years of collateral duties as a firearms instructor. I also was given that advice, to always notify (unless in some unusual scenarios) and I have stuck with it. I was taught that same thing by all six agencies by which I was employed: Border Patrol, Customs Patrol, Customs Office of Investigations, Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations. I also got the same advice/training from several other agencies/departments from which I received training during the course of my career. Beside my own agencies, I got the same training/advice from the: CA Highway Patrol, GA State Police, NY State Police, NYPD, Secret Service, DEA, Federal Air Marshals and Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, that was that notification was the preferred way to go while both on & off duty. If assigned to work with outside agencies & departments, especially when on a detail to another state or area, I'd usually ask what was the preferred thing to do - notify or not. Even when there was no legal obligation to do so, everyone I asked said notification was preferred. Now in retirement, I continue that habit likewise; I see no good reason to change. I have never had an officer cop (no pun intended) an attitude about me telling them I was armed. I did have one give me a face full of shit in NYC when I did not mention it (probably the only time I did not).

The reaction of the officers usually is the exact opposite of them getting nervous, taking offense or giving me a hard time about it. The officer is almost always thankful and expresses it. That I spoke up almost always results in the officer seeing it as a good bit of respect from you to him. Someone up above, in a previous post, in essence said: ‘why tell them because you aren't doing anything wrong other than that for which they stopped you’. That is often the thought of folks talking about getting stopped - that you somehow know why they stopped you. Maybe you were speeding and you know it BUT maybe the officer is stopping you for a totally different reason about which you have no clue. Maybe it is because he just received a lookout on your make & model of car, the driver of which just shot two people dead in a robbery, and you fit the description somewhat (and mind you somewhat is more than enough to make the officer nervous). Do you think it would be better for the officer to spot your gun as you reach into the glove box to get your registration or would it be better to tell him. Or how about he orders you out of the car and onto your knees then tells you to lay down on the ground. Even more revealing that he stopped you for other than what you thought, he pulls you out of the car with force because unbeknownst to you – you do better than merely somewhat fit the description of an armed felon - you match pretty much spot on! In doing so, he discovers that you are armed gun. Which would make him more nervous, you being up front before any of that happened (or even while it is happening) or one of those happening – the that being him finding it considering he stopped you for a violent felony he believes you just committed?

I have notified officers I was armed in several states; they all pretty much reacted the same – they were happy I told them. When I do so, I always try to tell them when my hands are flat on the dashboard or over the steering wheel, fingers spread wide or if out of a vehicle - with my hands in plain view with fingers spread wide. I do not go to grab my wallet/licenses until told to do so and then ONLY after notifying the officer I am armed. I obey commands of the officer when he is at the car and any he gives before he gets there. If an officer stops you and stays at his vehicle and starts giving commands like turn off your vehicle, take your keys and toss them out the driver's window, then place you hands outside the driver's window or anything along the lines of making it more difficult for you to do something – and maybe you also just happen to notice he has his gun aimed in on you - you had better pay attention. Gun or not in his hands, or whether or not you could see it in the first place, do what he says, do it slowly not like a sloth but make no rapid or unexpected quick movements AND let him know you are armed. Of course, this is all only my opinion but it is based on lots of training, experience and good sense. I like not making them nervous because there is always that chance I am being stopped or otherwise am engaging with an officer for something completely different than what I had imagined.​

Sometimes when you are dealing with an arsehat cop and yes there are some out there (bit of sarcasm there just in case you didn't detect it), it is not easy to get in a word edgewise but I do my best and will not go to grab anything anywhere on my person or in the car before telling the officer I am armed. Since I retired, I simply say something like: 'Hi officer, my driver's license is in my wallet as is my concealed carry license, I am armed with a pistol on my right hip. I usually add that I am a retired federal LEO but not always. Sometimes I suspect that gets folks out of getting a ticket - no career in LE required. Some cops really are into firearms and some will chat you up and forget all about a ticket. I honestly have little experience with that since I retired; I have been pulled over zero times in the four years since I moved out of NY (as far as I can recall right now and the little gray cells are sharp tonight). Just wait though, I figure I'll be pulled over several times tomorrow - I am that guy! Most of my experiences of being pulled over though took place while I was working in LE and there were lots of those and a few stops when I was off duty. While retired, I have been engaged by officers a few times but not in car stops. For instance, after calling 911 subsequent to witnessing a crime or notifying the PD of shots fired or whatever brings me into official contact with an LEO that has a good chance of going wrong. If they are surprised by the fact I am armed the tension level goes up immediately and I prefer it not to do so.So, I try my best to always let them know in such situations that I am armed.

Another thing about notifying an officer that you are armed is that it may or may not be a legal requirement in the state in which you are at the moment you are engaged by an officer. It also may be confusing. Arkansas, my current home state, requires a Concealed Handgun Carry Licensee to inform an officer that he is armed on demand. Oddly enough, now that AR has constitutional permitless carry, a person carrying who does not have a CHCL has no obligation to inform an officer that he is armed - well kind of, sort of, almost so. Throwing another monkey wrench into it is this tidbit: When asked for ID by an LEO in AR, the person being asked MUST present his CHCL to the officer if he has one. So while you did not have to tell him you are armed because he did not ask, you still have to in essence notify him by giving him your CHCL if asked for ID and then you are ALSO required to tell him if you are armed at that time. More at the source
The laws in each state vary widely on this issue and can be as ridiculously legislated into law as those in AR (which by the way is a very friendly state for gun owners but as I indictaed, I think they really have overly complicated laws & regulations on the subject of firearms possession). Since these laws do vary so much in different states, I think it much better to not take a chance and just let an LEO know right from the start that you are armed. Heck, I even tell them there are guns in the trunk - or wherever if such is the case. As for why the laws vary so much, well they could not make it easy, it's like they have to complicate things simply because they are politicians and this goes for the great majority of them, especially the lawyers amongst them who all too often have zero practical experience in such matters. Why they don't just make it simple and easy to understand & remember by requiring anyone who is armed to notify an LEO is beyond the scope of my imagination.

By the way, if I call 911 for anything involving violence, a good chance of potential violence or really anything hinkey, I let the 911 operator know I am a retired LEO and am armed. Then I give them a detailed description of myself so they can let the officers know that the person fitting that description - ME -is "the good guy".

All that written and maybe actually even read by some of you, you can do it however you want but I will continue notifying LEOs that I am armed. I do it for my own personal safety and for the safety of the officer(s) and now you know why I do it.
All the best,
Glenn B