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Old January 11, 2011, 11:26 AM   #1
booker_t
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Plainclothes/Concealed Carry: Worst Possible Outcome

There's been a lot of discussion on this topic; if you're carrying, how do you distinguish yourself from the bad guys? How do you identify yourself as a victim or as a LEO rather than a criminal? Sunday night a plainclothes Baltimore narcotics officer was shot dead, apparently by fellow Baltimore Police, while responding to a large altercation outside a nightclub. A 22-year-old civilian football player was also killed by gunfire.

"Slain officer overwhelmed by crowd, police fired as he lay on ground. Police say 41 shots fired in incident outside club Sunday."

Full story in the Baltimore sun.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/mar...,4108960.story

Photos from the crimescene (no gore).
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/mar...2.photogallery

Really tragic.

So some may respond that they avoid bars and nightclubs just for that reason, or that as soon as there was any issue it's time to leave, or whatever else. Okay, got it. But what about once you're in it and don't have that option? What about other places where fights and misunderstandings can occur?

It will be interesting to see how the investigation unfolds, to determine who shot who and what the responding officers' reasons for drawing and discharging (seemingly) into the crowd could have been.
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Old January 11, 2011, 11:51 AM   #2
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Interesting question. I'm a full-time uniformed LEO and I've thought a lot about this.

First, I always carry a badge, and if God Forbid, I had to get involved when off-duty I'd have my badge in my creds case in my pocket. Always, without fail, I've got my badge if I'm carrying a gun.

However, I was talking to an old friend, a retired LEO, who works in the schools. We were talking about a school shooting scenario and asked if he'd get involved with his Resource Officer. He told me that they've talked about it and of course he'd get involved, doing whatever is necessary to protect the kids. This guy is retired from law enforcement, and now has long hair and a beard, and his plan is that he's going to surrender whenever uniformed officers arrive. He'll simply prone himself out and wait for the handcuffs. It's likely that the arriving officers won't know that he's a retired LEO and they can sort it out after the adrenaline calms down.
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Old January 11, 2011, 12:15 PM   #3
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A plainclothes UCF officer was killed in Orlando, in somewhat similar circumstances, a couple years ago. Drew a handgun when several drunk students resisted arrest, after one or more physically assaulted him.

A county deputy saw the brawl and approached. The UCF officer either didn't hear or failed to respond to the deputy's commands to drop his weapon. The deputy fired...

This sort of thing is tragic, but understandable. It reinforces the need to have a plan as to how to react when LEOs arrive, and for CCW types to be absolutely certain they know the situation prior to involving themselves and a weapon.
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Old January 11, 2011, 12:21 PM   #4
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I have no idea how many plainclothes officers work in the BCPD, but would there be any benefit to having uniformed officers receive a brief, or a packet of photos to study, with a headshot of each plainclothes officer on the street? Would that help with recognition at all?

I could imagine a situation when a plainclothes officer (or a Secret Service Agent, FBI Agent, US Marshall, etc) would reach for their badge or credentials, which could be construed as reaching for a weapon.

Last edited by booker_t; January 11, 2011 at 12:28 PM.
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Old January 11, 2011, 12:29 PM   #5
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i think in all honesty, it would be fairly simple to distinguish yourself as a "good guy" in a hostile situation. do as you are asked, keep your motions slow (while dropping your weapon if drawn), keep your hands visible. then sort the "sorry's/thanks" after it has calmed down. now im simply arm chair QB'n so with adrenaline pumping and things moving a million miles per hour, things may get forgotten, but i think i would be able to remember to do as im asked and not try to do/grab/explain anything.
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Old January 11, 2011, 12:46 PM   #6
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Hello boredom,,,

Quote:
i think in all honesty, it would be fairly simple to distinguish yourself as a "good guy" in a hostile situation. do as you are asked, keep your motions slow (while dropping your weapon if drawn), keep your hands visible. then sort the "sorry's/thanks" after it has calmed down.
I don't want to get into an LEO bashing thing here,,,
But too many (when seeing an armed person) will shoot first and ask questions later.

This scenario is a great argument against the "sheepdog" role,,,
That so many licensed carriers say they would adopt.

My friend, I have no idea exactly what I would do if I was ever in an active shooter scenario,,,
Even though I have given considerable though to the topic since I started carrying,,,
I do know that when the police show up, the last thing I want is a gun in my hand.

I can pretty much guarantee they will open fire on any person with a gun they see,,,
At least that's the fear I have and it's based on personal experience.

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Old January 11, 2011, 12:48 PM   #7
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This has happened before and will happen again. Off-duty and undercover officers need to try to remember that in that sort of situation, when Uniformed Patrol arrives, THEY are in charge. They should follow all commands the patrolmen give them, and all will be sorted out in a few minutes. Until then, the plainclothes officer is in serious danger. In the small town where I serve as a LEO, all the officers know each other...but we could just as easily encounter a similar situation with a visiting federal agent or officer from another jurisdiction.
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Old January 11, 2011, 12:50 PM   #8
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Sad deal all the way around. I've always believed that any under cover should not become involved in anything like this, unless there is a DIRECT threat of loss of life not the potential of loss of life.

My best wishes to everyone involved and the entire B.P.D.
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Old January 11, 2011, 12:57 PM   #9
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I gotta agree with Single Six/old bear on this one. If I were on a plainclothes assignment or off-duty, and for whatever reason I was out at a club or anywhere and such an altercation ensued, I would avoid involvement unless absolutely necessary. I'd rather explain why I didn't get involved (given a story like this one) than be in the hospital or worse because my best intentions were misconstrued by on-duty, uniformed officers responding to the call. Now, if for some reason my CI or a person I was protecting/handling was in danger, well then it's my job to protect them, and that adds another element to the mix. We don't know why the officer was there to begin with.

boredom, while what you say sounds great, it wouldn't apply in this particular situation at all. The fight outside the club involved dozens of people, and the plainclothes was being overcome. From initial reports and accounts, he started to draw his weapon and likely wasn't even aware that uniformed units were on the scene. He was likely dressed in a manner as to fit in with the crowd, mostly "urban" wear.

And I think AaronG is on the money regarding the sheepdog comment.
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Old January 11, 2011, 02:15 PM   #10
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Empty hands, held up, with extended fingers.

ID cards are hard to see, if you have a badge, hold it up. A badge looks like a badge and cops notice it.

One cannot hurt you if you see their hands up, fingers spread, palms toward the incoming officers.
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Old January 11, 2011, 03:26 PM   #11
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boredom
Quote:
i think in all honesty, it would be fairly simple to distinguish yourself as a "good guy" in a hostile situation. do as you are asked, keep your motions slow (while dropping your weapon if drawn), keep your hands visible. then sort the "sorry's/thanks" after it has calmed down.
booker_t
Quote:
boredom, while what you say sounds great, it wouldn't apply in this particular situation at all. The fight outside the club involved dozens of people, and the plainclothes was being overcome. From initial reports and accounts, he started to draw his weapon and likely wasn't even aware that uniformed units were on the scene. He was likely dressed in a manner as to fit in with the crowd, mostly "urban" wear.
From the witnesses quoted in the article, it seems like the plain clothed officer for some reason (fearing for his safety or because he thought someone in the crowd was trying to take his gun) fired at someone in the crowd.

The uniformed officers were just arriving and see a man in civilian clothes fire at the crowd, and react by drawing and shooting him.

Not really sure how you could go about completely eliminating this type of incident but maybe if departments issued those safety sash things. Forget what they're called, but look like the sashes beauty pagent contestants were, only they say Police, or Security or something like that.
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Old January 11, 2011, 07:48 PM   #12
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I cannot for the life of me recall where I read this, but I remember an article from a few years back that dealt with the same subject. The author's LE agency introduced those "picture targets" onto their shooting range [the ones that depict an armed BG standing among a crowd, etc.]. One of the picture targets displayed a man armed with a handgun aimed at the shooter..but also holding up a badge in his other hand. This target was almost invariably shot, with none of the shooters ever seeing the upheld badge. Food for thought.
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Old January 11, 2011, 07:55 PM   #13
Brian Pfleuger
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All police agencies of which I am aware have the same policies in place (not verbatim):

1)The uniformed officer is instantly in charge and is to be instantly obeyed without delay or discussion.

2)Off duty/plain clothes officers act, essentially, as civilians. They get down, get cuffed, drop their guns, whatever, just like any other person who's not in uniform.

3)Anyone who is not known, who has a gun, is treated as a threat. Badge or no badge. They comply or they're a threat. A move that is threatening gets the appropriate response, including gun fire.



The shooting course used by our local training facility includes a pop-up target of a guy holding a gun pointed at the officer as well as a local police badge.... all officers are trained the same way... shoot him.
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Old January 11, 2011, 08:06 PM   #14
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Good Thread


There are ways that police officers identify themselves, and challange armed persons who could be another cop letting him know he's in danger of being shot. It's a simple phrase of three words. I wont divulge it here. Not that I believe any of you would abuse it, but this is an open forum.

I have personally experienced this situation, and have seen off duty/plain clothed officers mistakenly shot.

In one case a black officer, while off duty was effecting an arrest for robbery. Subduing an armed black perpetrator. The Officer was armed with a nickle plated revolver. At the time the standard regulation revolvers were blue steel guns for both service as well as off duty. A team of officers in a sector car responded to the robbery hearing a description of a male black armed with a gun. When they arrived they saw a male black with a non regulation gun. When they challanged him he turned to ID himself, and they fired killing the officer.

This incident caused major changes within the department reguarding officer identification. This was in a city with three major police departments, and three or four minor ones. All wearing similar uniforms, carrying the same firearms. But on different radio frequencies.

The sloution was for all officers of all departments to have with them a particular item of clothing. This artical of clothing was issued to all plain clothed officers in a set of five different colors. Every morning there would be a teletype or computer message sent to every police command in all departments issuing a color of the day. Plainclothed officers would the wear the proper color of that day identifying them as police. Uniformed officers would be told the color of the day at roll call. This worked pretty good.

In addition to the above changes a standard police challange was issued to all police oficers of all commands Those three words. So that if a plain clothed officer is displaying his firearm while effecting an arrest he would have his color of the day on, and if he heard the proper challange he knew there were uniformed officers on the scene. Also the department became very strict with the carrying of non regulation weapons. There was also a range cycle every two years with dedicated training on identifying officers under difficult conditions, and responding officers tactics.

The incidents of friendly fire became almost non existant. It still happened but is very very rare.


Well thats how one department dealt with it.

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Old January 11, 2011, 08:10 PM   #15
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No...

You try and not shoot the guy with the badge.
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Old January 12, 2011, 09:10 AM   #16
booker_t
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Very interesting Glenn Dee. I wonder if the BCPD has any such process in place. I'm sure they will be addressing options once this investigation is complete.
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Old January 12, 2011, 07:05 PM   #17
Glenn Dee
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Booker

Thanks for the interest. I dont know if BCPD has a similar program. The program I described was intituted in New York City, where at the time there was around 40,000 sworn officers between the departments. I do know that these statistics, and soloutions were shared with some surrounding departments, and offered to any department interested. Most tactical, and firearms related issues are dealt with by the PAFTS (police academy firearms and tactics section) The PAFTS as well as the NYPD has always offered training to any department willing to ask.

Many police departments dont use officers dressed in soft clothing for this reason. Some require plain clothes officers to wear their shield even in civilian clothes. Some require officers such as detectives, and other investigators who would normally would wear civilian clothes to wear their uniforms. I do notice that plain clothed officers in my adopted state of Florida tend to wear their firearms openly, while displaying their shield. Although I dont understand the reason other than to prevent friendly fire tragedies, the officers here who in other local's would be wearing plain clothes wear ATAS, ninja, high CDI factor uniforms,and equipment. Live n learn.(me)

Booker I'm sorry for rambling but your local PD probably wont share any information reguarding the steps they take for Officer ID. IMO it's better they come up with something. Better than abandoning a very effective method of patrol.


Glenn Dee

SIDE BAR:.... I'd bet most people dont know that wearing your firearm in a holster helps police see you as a possible good guy.
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Old January 12, 2011, 11:32 PM   #18
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most BG's will probably be carrying "mexican style", but if im approached by uniformed police officers while my gun is drawn, im not going to do anything but get my gun on the ground safely and then get chest down in the dirt/rain/mud/urine/etc and live to tell the story later.
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Old January 13, 2011, 01:03 AM   #19
Scattergun Bob
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Color of the day and having my shield hanging around my neck on a chain saved my bacon several times.

Depending on the circumstances complying with the uniformed officer and doing it RIGHT NOW tends to keep one from picking up additional holes.


Good Luck & BE SAFE
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Old January 13, 2011, 01:06 AM   #20
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Unfortunately, even if you do everything right, your life depends on how level headed the responding Officers are. Something to keep in the back of your mind when deciding whether or not to get involved in an incident.
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Old January 13, 2011, 01:15 AM   #21
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I also hate to monday mrng quarterback. responding officers are in charge was another good point. if the weapon is out it needs to be dropped immediately - hopefully it is holstered upon arrival. commands must be followed, but you must in a loud, commanding voice say: "I'm Law Enforcement. I'm Law Enforcement." You must communicate this message and then follow the lead.
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Old January 14, 2011, 08:14 PM   #22
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We issue "Raid jackets" to every Trooper and we are required to carry shield and ID at all times. Usually when we have plainclothes cops mixed in a crowd, we teach them to yell the year we were founded. Had a big fight at UCONN one night and there were actually three departments undercovers mixed up in it, all of them yelling years the department was founded. During the briefing
( I was in uniform) we were told of the three years to listen for and I looked at my partner and said "Ok, don't OC spray anybody yelling ANY year."
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Old January 15, 2011, 06:47 PM   #23
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Interesting method, and good decision for you and your partner. Nobody else is likely to yell any year at cop when about to be OCed.

Badges are good. Complying with uniformed officer's orders immediately is good too. I think this might be a subject where there is no perfect solution, unfortunately.
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Old January 16, 2011, 10:18 AM   #24
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I am not involved in law enforcement but find this topic interesting. Don't undercover or plain clothes officers carry radios? If not seems like there would be radios small enough to conceal. Also what about cell phone GPS. This would give the command center information on the undercover officer at the scene that could be communicated to the uniformed officers.
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Old January 16, 2011, 03:00 PM   #25
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Tyrant

Thanks for the interest. First off there is a huge difference between undercover officers, and plain clothed officers. For the most part Undercovers are wearing an alternate identity. They are pretending to be someone other than themself. Usually a criminal of some sort. Even in the very short term as in a buy n bust operation they maintain a non police personna. So given that undercovers never carry a radio, although they are sometimes wired for sound. They ususlly dont carry any police ID and if they have a firearm it's a non police type gun.

Plainclothed officers are usually armed as they would be in uniform, and carrying radios ID's and the usual police equipment. Instead of being in uniform they dress in civilian clothes in order to blend into the community so they can observe without being seen.
These officers are more often detailed to curtail street crime, and various conditions. Most friendly fire accidents happen when these "anti-crime" and off duty cops being misidentified by others.

And you are right... the radio is one of the best tools around to avoid these incidents.

Just to keep the thread interesting... as gun guys... what kind of a firearm would you recomend for an undercover officer? And how would you carry it?
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