In March 2011, 63-year-old retired Burbank (Calif.) Police Officer Dennis Fischer was standing in line at the Sunland McDonalds. Parolee Ryan William Reese — whose robbery modus operandi was to strike fear into the hearts of witnesses by pistol whipping victims — sprung into action directly in front of the retired officer. Fischer initially tried to subdue Reese, but after becoming injured during the struggle the retired officer drew his weapon and shot the armed suspect in the chest. The suspect was killed and Fischer was credited with saving the lives of two dozen people present during the robbery attempt.
HR 218, “The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act,” offers agency heads the option to arm their retiree’s, enabling them to save lives under the most dire of circumstances.
The Retired Officer Carry Classroom Presentation
Any “Retired Officer Law Enforcement Safety Act Firearms Class” (HR-218) should begin in the classroom. There is some crucial information that needs to be ingrained in each person in attendance. Authorized retirees in good standing are allowed to carry a concealed weapon in all 50 states (except in places where this is specifically prohibited, such as Federal Buildings). When retired officers are carrying concealed they need to:
1.) Always be in possession of the unexpired “Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act Retired Officer Concealed Carry Authorization Picture Identification Card” (Wow! That’s a mouthful) issued by their department.
2.) Not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
3.) Successfully complete the retired officer carry firearms course recognized by their department, which must be offered every year.
4.) Follow any other requirements outlined in the individual department’s policies and procedures.
The training should emphasize that all in attendance have served and there is no longer an expectation for them to throw themselves into the fray. In the event they find themselves in the vicinity of a crime in progress, when possible observe, exit, and report.
Tactically, retirees are not in a supremely wonderful position to effectively interdict crimes in progress. In these dangerous situations, they probably have limited ammunition, no vest, no authority, no long gun, no radio, and no back up coming to assist them. The department should point out that they also no longer enjoy a civil umbrella of protection as they did as officers. When they take action and win, they will be on their own for whatever civil litigation might follow, and a successful defense of a justifiable shooting can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With that being said, there will be times that a retired officer will view conditions so desperate they will find themselves compelled to engage. The deadly force criteria should be covered and understood by all in attendance.
Retirees should be discouraged from becoming involved unless it is as a last resort, to protect their own lives, the lives of their family and or loved ones, or others from someone, who is presenting an imminent threat of inflicting death or great bodily harm.
On The Range
Upon stepping onto the range cleared weapons, magazines, holsters and ammunition should be inspected. Some weapons, ammo and holsters may create safety concerns and this should be determined prior to the loading of magazines and weapons. The holsters used should not be their old duty holsters, but those that will be carried by the retiree. Departments usually require that officers qualify with the weapon they will most likely be involved in a gun fight with. They should be taught to dress to conceal the weapon to enhance their tactical edge at the scene of any in progress emergency.
The course fired should emphasize the importance of proper shot placement (upper respiratory, central nervous system hits as well as head shots.) The course should utilize realistic targets and distances. It should include movement reloading and the proper utilization of cover. Retirees should be encouraged to carry a cell phone which allows them always to phone in “armed retired officer on scene,” along with the location, circumstances, suspect description, conditions, and especially a personal description.
Most police training emphasizes verbalization (where appropriate), such as, “Police Don’t Move!” Retired officers may decide not to verbalize before firing, depending on the situation. If they verbalize before firing, retirees should be retrained to shout, “Retired Police Officer….”
After shooting, retirees like police officers should be trained to maintain cover while they scan to break up their tunnel vision and look for multiple adversaries.
Post shooting protocol can be practiced as retirees verbalize to citizens, “I am a retired police officer, call 911!” The need for retired officers to yield to the uniformed officers, when they arrive on the scene should be emphasized. Retirees should even be told to expect to possibly be handcuffed until the arriving officers sort things out.
Consider digitally recording the action on the range. It can help in documentation of the training as well as decisions to remediate. Department heads may not decide to issue cards to retirees, who do not achieve the identified minimum score or if a retiree shows an inability to handle the firearm in a safe manner. The natural process of aging can diminish the skills of even the best gun fighters. The toughest part of the class may be to take aside an elderly retiree and explain to them why they will not be issued a card.
Some chiefs and sheriffs are loath to offer a program such as this because of the “L word,” — liability.
The irony of taking this stance, however is, by offering no training it may be argued that the department may very well be potentially liable for all retiree’s. It is also worth pointing out the chief that does not authorize the program today will be the retired chief of the future that wished he would have.
The intent of the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act was to save lives and it has. Thanks to this law you may someday find yourself responding to an in progress active shooter, when you hear this follow-up transmission, “Units responding, shots fired suspect is down. There is an armed retired officer on scene. He says he is wearing a World Champions, Green Bay Packer Jersey with the number 12 on it.”
Remember, you can’t be authorized to carry when you retire, unless you... retire.
So stay safe, stay strong, stay positive, and be careful out there.