Cops weigh in: LEOSA Reform Act

LEOSA, passed in 2004, hasn’t quite worked as intended. Here’s what you had to say about the law, as well as the reform bill that’s intended to fix it


By PoliceOne Staff

A recent Policing Matters podcast covering the LEOSA Reform Act generated a significant response from listeners, with many current and retired LEOs reaching out to share their struggles with the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act and how they’d like to see legislation improve it.

Check out this roundup of the responses we received and let us know your take on LEOSA and the LEOSA Reform Act in the comments section.

What's your take on LEOSA and the LEOSA Reform Act? Tell us in the comments. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
What's your take on LEOSA and the LEOSA Reform Act? Tell us in the comments. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

RETIRED, FRUSTRATED COP

“I retired from a city police department in Arizona in 1988 after 22+ years and went to work for the U.S. Customs Service as an inspector, which fit the definition of a LEO, until I finally retired for good in 2004. I had left Arizona in 1995 when Customs transferred me to Illinois and I stayed there until I finally retired in 2004. By the time the LEOSA was enacted, I had relocated to North Dakota where I currently reside. And I had already obtained CCW permits from North Dakota and Utah.

I had (and still have) my identification from the Arizona police agency, which states that I "retired in good standing as a certified Arizona Peace Officer and served for at least ten consecutive years." This satisfies the documentation requirement per eligibility. What documentation I do not have is compliance with the proficiency with a firearm requirement that I would meet annually that is what LEOs in North Dakota would be required to meet for certification. And herein lies the rub.

Because I live in a state where I did not serve as a LEO, no agencies I have asked to let me "qualify" to the standards of active duty officers have been willing to let me do that. The reason stated is that they say they do not wish to place their agency at risk of a lawsuit by certifying me. I have even had a problem with determining what the qualification standard is for LEOs in North Dakota. If I still lived in Arizona, I would not have this problem.

The credentials I have from the U.S. Customs Service attest to my status as a LEO ("... Make arrests and bear firearms ...”. I have also had trouble getting Department of Homeland Security (successor to Customs when they were under the Treasury Department) to allow me to qualify with them.

I am confident I would demonstrate proficiency and be in full compliance.

What the LEOSA amendment needs is to add a statement that mandates that retired law enforcement officers be allowed to demonstrate proficiency with the firearm to the standard of locally certified LEOs and be provided documentation that attests to that compliance.

I also believe that states should have no authority to override federal law and prohibit CCW for qualified LEOs – active or retired – in any location.”


PROTECTING CORRECTIONS OFFICER RIGHTS

“Like other law enforcement officers, Cook County corrections officers put their lives on the line when they go to work every day. Moreover, an unfortunate but undeniable reality of our jobs is that we are often subject to hostility from inmates who choose to direct their pent-up rage at us rather than take accountability for their actions. Because these inmates are eventually released back into our communities, it is a documented problem – experienced personally by many of us – that we may encounter these resentful individuals in the street in our off-duty lives or while we are living out our retirement. The dangers presented by such encounters are obvious.

For these reasons, the U.S. Congress passed the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA), a federal law that gives us a right to carry a concealed weapon nationwide while off-duty or in retirement. While federal courts around the country have tried in various ways to limit the usefulness of this law and prevent it from applying to corrections officers, a group of corrections officers in the District of Columbia recently won a historic lawsuit that confirmed for the first time that: (1) LEOSA applies with full force to corrections officers; (2) LEOSA gives corrections officers an individual right that can be enforced through litigation under the civil rights laws; (3) LEOSA, in the words of the most important appellate court in the country, D.C. Court of Appeals, “contemplated no state reevaluation or redefinition of [LEOSA’s eligibility] requirements.” The federal law decides who is eligible to carry a weapon under LEOSA, not the local authorities.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (“the Board”) and the Sheriff of Cook County, however, have openly flouted these legal principles by adopting a different set of eligibility criteria for the Illinois Retired Officer Concealed Carry (IROCC) Program. Under the IROCC criteria, corrections and officers are not considered “law enforcement officers” eligible to carry concealed weapons.  We have been discussing these issues with Aaron Marr Page, the attorney who brought and won the D.C. court case (the “Duberry case”). He has investigated the situation in Cook County and surrounding counties and he is prepared, if we can retain his services, to advise and assist us in challenging the improper actions of the Board and the Sheriff or in establishing a system to protect our LEOSA rights.

The recent re-designation in New Jersey of correctional officers to that of correctional police officers gives hope that other state and county agencies will follow suite.”


‘I CARRY, BUT WORRY I MAY INADVERTENTLY VIOLATE THE LAW’

“I strongly support the LEOSA Reform Act's provisions to expand the places where LEOSA-qualified active/retired officers can carry. As a LEOSA-qualified retired state trooper, I carry frequently but continuously worry I may inadvertently violate a local law. This is particularly true while traveling out of my home state. I know other retired officers have the same concerns. I have always considered law enforcement to be an honorable profession, and even though retired, I would not hesitate to take appropriate action to save the life of a law enforcement officer or a civilian who was in a life-threatening situation.”


SUGGESTED LANGUAGE

“I am a retired LEO who carries under LEOSA and have been following your articles regarding the issues around LEOSA past and present. In regard to the LEOSA Reform Act, I have some thoughts as follows:

In consideration of the Supremacy Clause in Article VI, paragraph 2 of the U.S. Constitution, I would like to see the following language included in the current or future efforts for LEOSA evolution:

Active duty and retired and qualified law enforcement and military personnel certified to carry concealed weapons under LEOSA are exempt from all state and local laws, regulations, statutes and codes restricting the LEOSA-certified individual's choices regarding his or her semi-automatic firearm make/model, magazine capacity and standard magazine insertion and release as required. In addition, while on any public spaces, streets, highways and freeways, they are also exempt from restrictions while traveling or resting in “gun-free zones” or any other state/local location restrictions of their certified carry concealed weapons under LEOSA in public places.

In addition, if this or similar language can be added to LEOSA, it needs to be incorporated to the states and local governments to make it harder for them to ignore the supremacy clause in regard to LEOSA issues.”


MAGAZINE AND AMMO ISSUES

“One of the more important concerns of current or retired officers carrying in other states besides where we can carry is what we’re allowed to carry. Many states restrict magazine capacity and type of ammunition like non-hollow points. Even being a current officer, carrying in many other states sucks because I have to buy a low-capacity magazine and maybe change my ammo even if I’m carrying my department-issued duty gun!”
 


CONFUSION IN NY

“My agency and others in the downstate NY area require retiring officers to obtain a pistol permit upon retirement in order to take possession of their handguns. Apparently, in Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk (at least), the DAs have interpreted the "carry" in LEOSA strictly, meaning that the statute only applies to having a handgun on one's person. Other types of possession (such as having a handgun in one's home) are not covered.

I just found this out from one of my firearms instructors. I always thought this was just a quirk of my agency.

This is a major issue for us. I wonder if this is the case elsewhere in the country and would like this made known. Maybe it's time to lobby for the statute to be updated.”

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