How Much Power Do Off-Duty Police Officers Have?

Last week, an off-duty St Louis police officer shot and killed an 18 year old male

This is in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting that happened two months ago, and it brings up yet another important question: Exactly what powers do off-duty police officers actually have? The rules vary between police departments, and they’re actually more guidelines than they are rules But there is one hard and fast law covering the rights of off-duty police officers The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 allows active and retired police officers who served for at least ten years, to legally carry concealed weapons at all times, regardless of jurisdiction, or local and state laws But there are a few restrictions Officers can’t be in a Gun- Free School Zone, they can’t be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and they can’t be under disciplinary action

They also can’t carry a weapon if they were forced to leave the department due to mental instability That’s it That’s the only codified law specific for off-duty Police Officers But there are a lot of commonly accepted guidelines that most departments follow Most of them allow their officers to “moonlight” or take second jobs, even allowing them to wear their uniforms while doing security work

But there are limits Officers who want to work a second job do so with permission from their department And some departments don’t allow certain types of jobs, like bartending or stripping Most off-duty officers are allowed to make an arrest or question a citizen, but in order to do so – they have to present proper identification and follow all current police rules – which of course has its limits Off-duty officers cannot use their powers to resolve personal grievances

For example, if the neighbor of an off-duty officer is playing their music too loud, that officer cannot go next door and issue a noise citation This is according the International Association of Chiefs of Police Police are also advised against using their powers to fight minor crimes, like parking or traffic violations They also shouldn’t pull anyone over while in an unmarked vehicle, except in extreme circumstances For example, some off-duty officers will stop an obviously drunk driver

On the whole though, most police departments caution against officers doing police work while off-duty, mainly to protect the city from liability lawsuits If an off-duty officer does something illegal or unethical after identifying himself as a member of the department, the city he works for could be held accountable Which is why many cities, like Philadelphia, suggest that if an off- duty officer sees a crime, they should simply call 911 If you’d like to watch another episode on police in the United States, check out our video on a new strategy that one department is using to end police brutality

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