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Law Enforcement and the Armed Citzen

February 24, 2012

I’ve had to learn how gun owners might encounter law enforcement officers.  The first way is as a victim requesting help from the police.  The second way is as a law abiding gun owner meeting a law enforcement officer.  Let’s touch on both.

First, I am neither a lawyer nor a law enforcement officer.  I’m an innocent who had to educate himself.  I don’t know what it is like to have police knock on my door early in the morning.  I don’t know what it is like to be arrested, and I hope I don’t find out.  The police officers I know socially seem like reasonable people, but many officers are not.  These are the guidelines I’ve collected to limit my problems.

 What is the essential purpose of law enforcement?  The essential purpose of law enforcement is to identify, locate and detain criminal suspects.  They don’t “stop crime”.  They enforce the law.. eventually.

Can’t law enforcement protect us?  Officers seldom catch a criminal during a crime in progress.  Where I live, there is one law enforcement officer on duty for every 7,600 citizens.  Each law enforcement officer covers about 16 square miles.  Criminals behave for about a quarter of an hour after the police pass by.  There are many citizens to protect and the police are far away when a crime occurs.  Police response time averages 7+ minutes for a top priority.  The clock doesn’t start until someone calls the police.  Criminal assault takes only seconds and the criminal is usually long gone by the time the police arrive.

Every policeman I know would like to protect you, but it is not physically possible for them to do so.

What is the cycle of crime?  Law enforcement and the criminal justice system remove repeat offenders from society.  The “first time offender” is unlikely to serve jail time once identified, located, arrested, tried and convicted.  Professional and occasional criminals spend about a third of their time incarcerated.  They live among us the rest of the time.  Look here if you don’t believe me.

The average criminal will commit dozens of crimes before they are incarcerated, but that is changing.  Repeat offenders are unlikely to receive jail time for non-felony offenses due to overcrowding in our jails.  They may have committed a felony, but may plea bargain down to a misdemeanor charge.  The combination of reported property and violent crime peaked at 1 victim in 170 per year.

Why are law enforcement officers armed if they can’t protect us?  Law enforcement officers deal with people who are mentally ill, intoxicated and violent every day.  Officers are armed with lethal and non-lethal weapons to defend themselves.  They are not legally or morally obligated to protect us even if we call while a crime is in progress.

What should citizens do?  We are responsible for our own defense and defense of our family. We provide immediate protection, while law enforcement provides prosecution.  The police will tell you as much.

So you think we should be armed?  No.  I think we should be aware of our vulnerability.  Awareness often allows us to avoid problems in the first place.  Awareness doesn’t work all the time, but it helps even when an encounter is unavoidable.  I think you should get a gun if you are committed to self-defense.

How else will we encounter law enforcement?  The secondary purpose of law enforcement is to raise money by issuing fines.  Many governments have found that they can generate income by charging large amounts of money for small infractions.  Some police officers like this role, but many do not.  The officer is no longer “Officer Friendly” out to help us, but a revenue officer out to fine us.  Law enforcement officers are allowed to lie as they gather evidence, and they practice doing so.  We have to practice too.  Your state may require that you inform the officer if your carrying.  Beyond that, practice keeping your mouth closed.  This isn’t easy for us to do because we want to help the officer.  That is why we have to practice shutting up.

Lawyers for the police union give this advice to their members-

  • Record the interaction if you can.  You want your own recording that can’t be deleted or disappear.
  • Helping the officer is not your job.  Your job is to keep your mouth closed.
  • Ask to contact your lawyer.  If you are not being questioned then you don’t have anything to say to the police.  If you are being questioned then you need a lawyer present.  You need a lawyer for the same reason the policeman needs a lawyer when he is being questioned.
  • Do not consent to a search.  If necessary, lock your keys in the car.

If that advice is good enough for the officer, then it is good enough for me.

Are you promoting a separation between the police and the citizens?  No, but it might sound like that because agencies vary a great deal in their approach to law enforcement.  Some departments work with their community and see the community as both a customer they serve and as an asset to assist law enforcement.  They depend on the community for information, and, in turn, they help train citizens to defend themselves until the police arrive.  Citizens are considered the “first responders” of law enforcement.  For their part, citizens see law enforcement as an essential and integral part of the community.  That is community policing at its best.  I like that approach, but it is uncommon.  Community policing is also at odds with using law enforcement as a source of revenue.

Most departments view themselves as separate from the community.  Officers don’t obey the same laws or suffer the same punishments as citizens.  These departments view the citizens as occupying the city or county controlled by the police.  In turn, these departments are seen by the citizens as an occupying force that must be tolerated, but is best avoided.  These departments are increasingly armed and armored.  Speaking metaphorically, officers are alone in a crowd and no one has their backs.  One can ask who started the alienation.  Did the police first turn their back on the citizens, or did the citizens first turn their backs on the police?

Where does that leave us if we want to protect ourselves and our families?  Your right of self-defense is not uniformly recognized across the United States.  In some places you’re seen as responsible and doing your civic duty by carrying concealed.  In some cities you’re viewed with suspicion if not contempt.  This puts a burden on us to know the local laws before we go armed.

~_~_

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 29, 2012 3:18 pm

    Some great articles and comments on this site, which I just found on a Google search and I would like to share some of this info on our Church Security Institute News and Info sites. http://www.ourchurch.com/member/c/churchsecurity and on our blog of training and other info. We also have a blog of training and news: fwww.ChurchSecurityInstitute.wordpress.com.

    Thank you for your info and please email us permission to share, giving you credit for this: ChurchSecurityInstitute@gmail.com

    Like

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