Carrying while retired: 7 things cops need to know

Here are seven things you need to think about as you begin to carry as a retired officer


Now that you are retired, or preparing to retire, there are a number of considerations that you should be aware of because of your retired status. 

In the wake of attacks against officers across the country, remember that to those who would harm us and our families, you are still the police. Before carrying under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) make sure to check the requirements under federal law and applicable state statutes. 

Here are seven things you need to think about as you begin to carry as a retired officer.

1. Proper ID: A department issued photo ID indicating that you are retired is required and a state-issued certification that you have met the firearms qualification must be in your possession whenever you are carrying under LEOSA. My home state makes it easy by providing the form online, along with the state qualification course that needs to be fired to meet the requirement. My department was also kind enough to provide me a badge that says retired, but it isn’t required by federal law. There are also LEOSA badges available online.

2. Understanding where you can and can’t carry: Things have changed with your retired status. If there is a sign on a business saying, "Firearms Prohibited" that now applies to you. For instance, federal property like the post office is now a no-carry zone for you. Under the influence of alcohol? Illegal carry.

Now that you have met the criteria for lawful carry under LEOSA how should you respond if you are placed in a situation that requires you to draw your weapon and/or discharge it.

3. You are no longer a cop, but you are still a protector: Years of training have probably ingrained a verbal challenge in conjunction to drawing your weapon. “Stop! Police! You are under arrest!” is no longer authorized and could potentially place you in jeopardy of being charged with impersonating a police officer. The courts will probably be very understanding about your years of training in issuing this type of verbal challenge, but better safe than sorry. Pulling out your retired ID and showing your badge prior to the officers responding to the scene could also get you charged.

4. Your use of deadly force is no longer sanctioned under the 4th Amendment: As a police officer you were authorized to use deadly force under a variety of circumstance, including using it to stop fleeing dangerous felons. As a retired police officer you are only authorized to use deadly force under the restrictions of the statutes of the state you are in when forced to use it. Study the laws that apply to the use of deadly force by civilians, because that’s what you are now and how you will be judged.

5. You only have the powers of citizen’s arrest: Seriously consider what that means. Decide beforehand what situations you are willing to interject yourself into as a private citizen. You have no back up, radio, body armor, and no badge. The advice I give to cops is that there is a time to be a good cop and a time to be a good witness. Unless someone is being seriously injured or killed, be a good witness. You can no longer be a cop — you’re retired. 

So you have been forced by the suspect’s actions to draw your weapon and/or discharge your weapon. Now what?

6. If it is safe, stay on the scene and make notification to law enforcement as soon as practical: In most people’s minds, flight equals guilt. If you must leave, only go a short distance to safety and call 911. I’ve been teaching Massad Ayoob’s "3 Rings of Safety" to cops for years and it applies to you as well.

a. The call: Get someone else, if possible, to dial 911 and report the situation. Provide your physical and clothing description and your retired LE status to dispatch.
b. The welcoming committee: If possible, have someone you trust outside the building (if you are inside) to repeat the message to the responding officers.
c. Your demeanor: If the situation allows for it, holster your weapon. You’re just a (wo) man with a gun to the responding officers until proven otherwise. Remember, officers are responding to a person with a gun, not you. Do exactly as you are told. If possible, face the direction that the police will arrive so that you aren’t startled by their verbal commands and instinctively and perhaps fatally, turn toward them with a gun in your hand. 

7. Protect yourself with an insurance policy: There are a number of companies providing insurance for civilians and retired cops who may find themselves in need of legal representation after a shooting. How do you want to spend your retirement years? By having to work to pay off an attorney? That probably isn’t how you planned things. You may want to protect that retirement fund or pension with an insurance policy.

Conclusion
LEOSA provides us with a unique opportunity to provide protection for ourselves and communities. You need to prepare your mind and body for that moment by understanding the new set of rules that you are required to follow to legally act in your capacity as a retired LEO. This is one step forward on the road to your long, healthy, and hard-earned retirement. 

A special thanks to Jeff Chudwin and Massad Ayoob for their input and counsel for this article and for all that they have done for law enforcement over the years.

About the author

In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career he served as patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., Use of Force and Firearms Instructor, and is currently employed by the Parkers Prairie Police Department. He is also a full-time instructor in the Law Enforcement Program at Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria, Minnesota. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University, and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University.

Contact Duane Wolfe

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