Off-duty carry and the active shooter

With the recent events unfolding in Colorado, I wanted to take a moment to re-boot some tactics that we as officers are guilty of forgetting. This is by no means a slam on us or our profession, but as any experienced officer will tell you, “Complacency Kills.”

I have experienced over the years, our officers get into the mindset that the only time they need to react is while on duty. These officers may be the most tactically-sound individuals the moment they put the uniform on, but the minute shift change happens and their out of the locker room, “I’m off duty.”

Most guys go from Condition Yellow or Orange to Condition White.

Some guys who go into these zones, dump their guns all together in their lockers, and don’t think about it until the next tour of duty. If thats not bad enough, I’ve even seen seasoned officers talk down to younger guys giving them hell for carrying a weapon off duty. These veteran officers then make these younger guys feel like they’re doing something wrong, or “Tackleberry’s,” thus re-enforcing negative training and poor tactical behavior.

Now take Colorado... while all the facts are still developing and I’m sure will change in the upcoming weeks and months, the basic facts are coming to light.

Here we have a 24 year old man with no known criminal history — a grad student in the medical profession with an outstanding GPA. While yes, he had purchased guns and ammo, this was all done legally and so far without any violation to state and federal laws.

He had no Facebook, Twitter, etc. to draw any attention to his plans and even his friends who had recently had a beer with him, said he didn’t display any unusual behavior. This is our worst type of criminal, the Lone Wolf and they are becoming more common.

This criminal has obviously done his homework on his plan. He knows the layout of the target. He has an accessible cache of weapons and an easy way to access them. He picks the time and place to inflict maximum casualties. He preys off the weakness of the event, by hiding in plain site and wore a costume along with other victims.

Lastly, he doesn’t discriminate, everyone to him is target.

The Lone Wolf is so dangerous, that we as “Sheepdogs” (for those who have attended Lt. Dave Grossman’s training would call us) must always be on our A-game. We must accept that we live in a society that forces us to maintain Situational Awareness and always live in Condition Yellow or Orange state of mind. We must always hone our firearms and defensive tactics skills in the hopes that we never have to use them.  We must remember that we rose our right hands and promised to defend our citizens and the constitution. That promise comes with a price.

While I’m not suggesting anyone be a “cowboy” or replace sound tactics, we still have a duty to protect even while off duty. I’m not going to stand here and tell you what tactics to use, how you should carry your weapon, or suggest any violation of law or policy.  My only goal is to suggest we always stay in the mindset of a warrior and that when we fight, we fight to win.

So how do we win? I had a firearms instructor teach me at my first instructor school, “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t winning.” His simple words  meant that we always have to give ourselves the “unfair” advantage over our adversaries.  I’ve always remembered that, and it’s what I’ve taught others to believe.

So here’s what I recommend to all of us who hunt the wolves.

First, you need a solid off-duty weapon system that’s reliable (I’m not going to go into fad guns or preferences). Next, you need a holster that’s comfortable for all-day use and won’t “print” through your clothing. Then, we also need an extra magazine of ammunition, remember 5-10 rounds go fast when you’re dealing with an active shooter. Also, we need some form of restraints and a phone.

Lastly, we need a plan. If we are out, we need to be aware of our surroundings and our families, and they need to know what to do if we get into a gun battle.

While I could write pages on the types of guns, tactics, equipment, etc. would be the best, that’s not what this article is about. I wanted to bring to light that the landscape of law enforcement has changed and we need to adapt to it to survive. It’s my hope that this article generates discussion within our ranks, to encourage guys to carry off duty and reinforce that it’s ok to do it, without it being a “Tackleberry” (or having any of stigma attached to it).

Remember, our goal in an active shooter situation is to stop them from killing people and change their mindset from Hunter to Hunted.

As I close, I leave you with one final quote, I believe in so much I attach it to all my emails as my closing. “I am always outnumbered, but never outmanned.”

I found this quote from an unidentified Tier 1 operator and it holds true to every warrior out there. Stay safe, watch your six, and thanks for reading this.

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