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Preparing your family for an off-duty incident

Undoubtedly, you’ve trained to handle an incident while off duty such as the one in which Ohio police officer Tony Luketic and his mother were shot by Ollie Tate in November 1995. Having occasion today to contemplate that incident once again, it also comes to mind that it’s a good idea to “train” our families for off-duty encounters as well. 

One way you can help keep your spouse and children safe in an off-duty encounter is to explain ahead of time how crucial it is for them to listen and act immediately — with no delay and no questions asked — when you tell them to leave an area.

Some families have set code words for bailing out of an area, and that’s fine. I happen to like simple, so for me a simple “Go. Now.” works just fine. 

The important part is having a plan, and having discussed it with your loved ones ahead of time. Would having a “Go Signal” have worked for our friend Tony and his mom at the Society National Bank in Ohio that day? I tend to doubt it — that incident came uncorked too fast for such a signal I think. 

But in the event that your intuition tells you that trouble is imminent — and that it may require your intervention — having a pre-set strategy to get your family to safety first will be of great value. 

Once they are in a safe place, your spouse should know — and depending on the age and maturity of your kids, they should know too — to call 911 and let the dispatchers know that an off-duty officer is responding on scene to whatever incident is going down. They should be able to provide a detailed description of you (and what you’re wearing) so that arriving uniforms can discern good guy from bad guy. 

Remember that when a self-proclaimed jihadi named Sulejman Talović attacked the Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City, an off-duty police officer from the Ogden City Police Department named Ken Hammond was the first to respond. The 911 call made by wife Sarita — by no small coincidence Sarita is a 911 dispatcher — serves practically as a clinic in how we hope all our spouses would act in such an incident. 

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