There’s always a concern about how police will behave when meeting an armed citizen, particularly at a shooting or crime scene. I can empathize with both sides. Having been the police, I didn’t like anything that would delay or threaten me. On the other hand, as a private citizen, I can’t stand being treated like a felon because the police don’t know me.
Here’s a few things you can do to get along with the police:
1. If you have a CCW weapon, put it back in the holster and button your jacket. Have your CCW permit in hand. Wait for the officer to get out of the car and acclimatize himself to the the scene. Tell the officer you are a CCW holder and are carrying a holstered handgun. Do not show the officer the permit unless he asks to see it. Impatient officers hate having things thrust at them while they’re trying to handle a call. The purpose of having the card in-hand is to prevent you from having to put your hands near your belt line. Take it easy and let the cops guide the contact.
2. If you’re a party to an incident and cannot legally conceal the weapon your actions will depend on your circumstances. Obviously, you can’t lay down the firearm if it is not safe to do so. In cases where you must keep pointing your gun at a threat until police arrive be certain to never face the police with the gun in your hand–point it away from the cops even if you have to twist your torso. Remember, when we’re frightened we tend to face in the direction of our attention, which means many people point guns at cops without thinking. If you have to hold onto the gun, hold it by the barrel with the grip pointing upward and your arm extended to the side. Raise your other arm above your head. Where you are able, place the weapon on a table, porch, or other elevated surface in plain view and step away. Opening a revolver cylinder or locking back a slide prior to the arrival of the police is helpful. Remove the magazine or rounds and place them beside the weapon. Never manipulate the weapon in front of the police without being so ordered. Police will not be happy if you have unloaded a weapon that was used in a shooting prior to their arrival. If you can leave the gun on the kitchen table and meet the cops outside, that’s great. But evidence is not your immediate concern, not getting shot is your immediate concern. So, if you’re in the street and patrol cars are racing toward you from blocks away, make the weapon completely safe and place it at your feet (provided that the scene is safe).
3. Shut up. Don’t tell the cops about your choices in guns or try to talk shop. Relax and focus; the police will eventually get to you. You alone will determine how much credibility you have with responding officers. The less you say and the better you follow directions, the more cops will tend to consider you credible.
4. The police have a right to your name, age, and address. You must show them your ID. CCW holders are expected to be cooperative in most jurisdiction but that doesn’t mean you must forego your constitutional rights. Keep you story to the essentials so that the police have enough to know how you fit into the call: “I heard a loud noise and got my gun and walked into the living room. I saw that man and told him to put his hands up. Then I called the police.” Even that’s more than ought to be said in a perfect situation but it’s a good compromise to avoid having to make bail. After the police have the nuts and bolts of what happened, let them know you’d like to speak with your attorney. If the police have a right to search your house, they’ll search it. Don’t give them permission for searches but offer to cooperate with a warrant. There’s a section on talking to the police in the forthcoming Practics Holistic Handgun but the essence is polite cooperation is always right but surrendering a constitutional right is almost always wrong. The police are not out to get you but there are many things in your state’s criminal code of which you are probably not aware. Ask to see your attorney before questioning or consenting to a search. It is your right.
5. Be considerate. The cop who responds to a call doesn’t know you. You don’t look any different from people who have assaulted cops. Give up thinking or saying things like, ‘If I were guilty would I have…?” The answer is “yes.” Criminals, unlike in Sherlock Holmes stories are rarely calculating and reasonable. Your responding cop may be a nice guy or he may be pompous ass but he’s still a police officer. He wants to know what happened and make the scene safe. Cops work in an established pattern. Stay out of the way, obey lawful commands, wait your turn, and the police will appreciate your understanding.
6. Know the law concerning your CCW. If you have a permit and don’t know your legal obligations, you deserve what you get. Qualifying with a handgun is not enough for the moral and legal maze that lies before the armed citizen.
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