Click here to read "12 rules for off-duty conduct", an online extra to complement "The new off duty"!
In February 2006, Law Enforcement Technology published "12 rules for off-duty conduct," a primer on the transition between on-duty and off-duty.
While this article was written three years ago, the basic concepts were appropriate 50 years ago and likely will be appropriate 50 years hence. However, some things have changed. Many agencies have lost their tax base and are left to perform the same services with fewer employees and less infrastructure. Furthermore, we are quickly becoming a society that looks for the government to intervene and resolve problems, which only a few years ago most would have addressed themselves.
In the midst of all this, the public still demands that these twice pared down agencies offer the same amount of protection for each county, municipality or township. Some agencies have been downright inventive in their ability to provide services to their communities. For example, The City of San Diego has an efficiently organized volunteer workforce that is larger than almost half the law enforcement agencies in the United States.
Another part of the current problem is a rise in unprovoked violence against officers. As a society, we have done more to protect the constitutional rights of those who advocate violence against officers than the victim officers themselves. The national average of officers per 1,000 in population has recently shown a slight decline. For 2009, there is a glaring spike of assaults against peace officers. Regardless of the explanation for this trend, we need to somehow do more with less and protect our officers on the street.
The new off-duty should reflect the fact that officers may have to be more prepared to intervene on behalf of his on-duty counterpart, or more likely, intervene in an active incident. Individual officers should simply be more prepared to "help their buddies" than ever.
Thus off-duty officers should carry a streamlined version of their on-duty equipment. This includes a handgun and adequate ammunition, a knife, a less-lethal device, handcuffs, badge, ID, communications equipment and a flashlight. If there's room, other miscellaneous tools are recommended.
Off-duty clothing should have unrestricted movement and officers should appear innocuous while wearing it. Clothing that says "I'm a cop" — in tactical colors and packs that scream "off-duty officer"— are out and hidden in plain sight stuff is in. Clothing manufacturer Arborwear makes work jeans with sturdy pockets and a gusseted crotch. For a more tactical version, Arborwear has a pair with cargo pockets that offers freedom of movement like a martial arts uniform. We tested this material, originally made for folks who swing chain saws all day, and found it breathed extremely well, was stain resistant and had a little flex in the weave. Neither pant looks like tactical wear, but they really are. Wearing a patterned shirt like 5.11's Covert Casual Plaid Shirt will break up the "print" of the duty gun underneath. This product was specifically designed for the off-duty officer and is surveillance team friendly as well.
The rule never changes: Carry the most effective firearm that wardrobe allows, and wardrobe should be congruent with climate. For waistband carry, IWB (inside the waistband) is usually recommended. Test the outfit by putting the gun in and raising both hands, slightly bending side to side. If the gun is still concealed, the system works. This is another reason why we like the 5.11 plaid shirt. IWB holsters should not significantly add to the width of the tucked gun and should hold securely while running.
For off-duty firearms, we define effective caliber as something with a history of proven duty performance. This includes, but is not limited to .45 ACP, 40 S&W, .357 SIG, .357, 9mm and .38+P.