In California, where I live and work, there has been an increasing movement among a segment of legally-armed citizens to carry unloaded sidearms in plain view. This trend is happening elsewhere too, but there seems to just be more “activity” around the movement here in the Golden State — perhaps because it seems so much more difficult to get a CCW here than in most other states.
In my humble estimation, the video of Officer Matthew Lyons of the Oceanside (Calif.) Police Department could be a training video for any agency that has to deal with “open carry citizens.” In fact, the video of video below in which Officer Lyons encounters one of those individuals stands in stark contrast to another we posted to PoliceOne last week.
There has been quite a lot of traffic to the video of Canton (Ohio) Patrolman Daniel Harless — not just here on PoliceOne, but all over the Internet — and his less-than-stellar response to a legally-armed citizen in his sector. I’m told that Harless has been — or soon will be — relieved of his badge. Well, regardless of the outcome of that particular case, there are myriad examples out there of officers encountering an open-carry citizen, and I point to this one with Officer Lyons as a compelling example of “doing it the right way.”
Support From All Over the Internet Officer Lyons has been rightly hailed by a handful of bloggers, including one for CBS News which bears repeating here:
“Officer Matt Lyons with the Oceanside Police Department definitely deserves a shout out for this almost 3-minute encounter. Officer Lyons, we salute you, not only for your incredible professionalism, sense of humor, and great on camera demeanor, but also your dedicated 22 years of service in the United States Marine Corps.”
I couldn’t agree more. Officer Lyons attends to his own safety first and foremost, securing the individual’s weapon and making sure it’s unloaded and cleared. He engages the subject in a very smooth verbal exchange in which “Jeremy” refuses to give his last name — a legally sound position to take in California, at least for the time being until new legislation on that is passed. He communicates with his arriving backup that the situation is in hand. He even finds a way to create a connection with the subject (they are both Marines).
A Real Officer Safety Issue Most citizens who avail themselves of these so-called “open carry rights” also carry loaded magazines, thereby enabling themselves to quickly and efficiently put the weapon in service should the need arise. When the issue first gained prominence, many law enforcement agencies and trainers thought little of it — this was not the segment of armed society that caused police any anxiety. But now, there is a growing number of individuals in the open carry movement here in California (and other states, but here is where it’s biggest) to provoke exactly this kind of incident, videotape it, and use that on YouTube as fodder for their argument about the constitutionality of carrying a sidearm. In some cases, these individuals are looking to embarrass the officer they expect to encounter.
It’s impossible to say whether or not this was “Jeremy’s” intent, but it’s plainly evident that Officer Lyons refused to fall into any such trap. In fact, he seemed to be ready for his YouTube moment. At one point he even says, “Well, it should look good on YouTube,” and as the contact ends, Lyons concludes, “Jeremy, thanks for your cooperation, and remember: My name is Officer Lyons with the Oceanside Police Department. My badge number is 1093. God bless America.”
The Legally-Armed Citizen My friend and PoliceOne colleague Ron Avery wrote on this subject only a couple of months ago. In that column, Avery wrote, “A side note to the citizen carrying openly: You should expect to be contacted law enforcement. You should expect to be feared by some, and considered to be a person of interest to many. Understand that by wearing a weapon in the open, you raise the perceived threat level in the eyes of law enforcement and other citizens. Friendly behavior goes a long way. People key on behavior rather than the weapon. Most folks respond well to a smile, polite behavior or a warm hello rather than a cold stare. I recommend that approach. You will be surprised how many people respond in a positive manner when you do that. Actually, this holds true on both sides of an open carry discussion, contact, or encounter...”
It just so happens that for the past month or so, I’ve had plans to attend an eight-hour class on this very subject, and had plans to write about it sometime shortly thereafter. That class, being taught by my friend (and PoliceOne Contributor) Ken Hardesty and the team at LMS Defense will encompass all levels of appropriate force by the legally-armed citizen, such as the Reasonable Person standard, interacting with arriving law enforcement, Castle law, potential ramifications of deadly force application, and current California case law. Legally Armed Citizen takes place entirely in the classroom, combining a mixture of lecture, video and group discussion.
I don’t know whether or not there’s still room for more attendees, but if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area and have a free Saturday coming up, here’s where you can sign up to attend. Watch this space in a week or two for my column about the class and what we discuss in it.
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. In addition to his editorial and managerial responsibilities, Doug has authored more than 750 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), and an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association. He is also a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, and is a two-time (2011 and 2012) Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" Finalist in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.
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