In Gunfighter Cast episode GC-130, I talk with seasoned Law Enforcement Officer Joe Weyer about interacting with an officer as a Concealed Carry License holder.
With over two decades of experience under his belt as an officer, he offers an inside perspective that helps armed citizens understand how to comport themselves in a responsible, respectful manner when they engage with law enforcement. One of the key things to remember in any of these situations is to try to understand where the officer is coming from.
According to Joe, the majority of law enforcement officers appreciate armed citizens. Still, since it’s their job to deal with the bad guys, it behooves the Concealed Carry Licensee to follow some basic guidelines — whether it’s a simple traffic stop, a robbery at the local gas station, or a full-blown active shooter situation.
Listen up and learn how to communicate with, and even assist (should the occasion arise), law enforcement officers.
This podcast was originally published in March of 2017.
Host: Daniel Shaw
Guest: Joe Weyer
Introduction/Timeline: Stephanie Kimmell
0:15 Who is Joe Weyer?
He is the Director of Training and SRT Commander for Alliance Police Department. He’s also the Range Master for Alliance Police Training.
4:08 What does he think of regular non-LE citizens carrying defensive handguns?
“I think everyone should be issued a gun at birth, and a lot of my colleagues in law enforcement feel the same way. We feel so strongly about it that I actually started my own side business where we do a significant amount of CCW classes to help arm citizens here in Ohio.”
4:39 What does it mean to have a Concealed Carry license?
Having a gun is part of it, but getting good training is important. Some training opportunities out there aren’t so good. Just because you’ve gotten training, don’t have the attitude that “I did the academy, I’m qualified, I earned the right to carry this gun.” That’s a moronic attitude because it’s a God-given right.
5:09 How do law enforcement officers feel about citizens carrying firearms?
Police officers don’t get into law enforcement because the pay is great. It’s a calling to serve the community. The vast majority of them are thankful for responsible citizens who arm themselves. However, there are some who don’t appreciate it and Weyer says there are two types of police officers that don’t appreciate citizens carrying guns.
• The first type of officer who doesn’t appreciate citizens carrying guns is a new-fledged police officer. That’s someone who has gone to the police academy and worked really hard to become a public servant. That person identifies part of his/her new life as a police officer with carrying a gun — that’s what makes them different from everyone else. They intend to serve and help people in times of crisis. That type of police officer quickly learns that when a citizen truly needs help, the officer can’t teleport to the location.
Law enforcement is reactive, not proactive.
“When something terrible is happening to your family, we don’t show up in time. We show up to take the report. I’ve hade over two decades of law enforcement under my belt. I have not intervened in a single rape. I have not intervened in a single robbery. I have not intervened in a single home invasion. All of these things happen with no police presence. So pretty quickly, that young police officer comes to the conclusion that citizens need to be able to protect themselves and their family. In fact, they don’t just need to, it is their responsibility to protect themselves and their family. Citizens that choose to allow someone else to do that never come out very far ahead in these types of situations.”
•The second type of police officer that is against citizens being armed is the elected official. Weyer observes that the higher an individual goes up in the chain of command in policing, they start caring more about liability than about saving lives. A lot of sheriffs and commissioners are elected and they don’t want to hang their political views on arming the citizen out there because they’re trying to be political. It’s not so much that they’re against the citizen carrying the gun, they just don’t want to be very open about it.
8:37 The lion’s share of law enforcement wants citizens carrying guns.
As a reflection of that, Weyer mentions that all of the training at Alliance City Police Range is open to citizens to come and attend as well. (Other than the explosive breaching.) Citizens can sign up on the website and go train with the officers.
10:17 How important is an armed populace?
“Citizens being armed is important. Citizens being trained is more important.”
Weyer points out that law enforcement in this country is severely out-numbered. The majority of society wants law and order, and that’s the only reason society functions the way it does. If law enforcement breaks down, police officers are massively outnumbered. When law and order break down, law enforcement needs citizens to help.
11:51 How do you interact with a police officer at a traffic stop?
***The advisement that Joe lays down in the podcast is based on his knowledge and application of Ohio CCW laws. All states have different laws but for the most part, if you follow this advice, you’re going to be ok anywhere in the U.S. Still, it’s up to you, the listener/reader to update yourself on the laws in the state that you’re in to make sure you’re doing things the correct way.
•When you interact with law enforcement, consider all the different types of law enforcement that there are. The things we talk about here aren’t only for interacting with uniformed officers. They could be game wardens, water-craft officers, park rangers, it could be a vast array in many different aspects of law enforcement, which falls into all of those criteria.
• If you get pulled over, don’t take it personally. The reason you’re getting stopped might have nothing to do with you.
If the cherry lights go on, the first thing you should do is pull over to a safe place where the officer is clear of oncoming traffic. No, putting your seat belts on is not the first thing you should do.
Once you’re pulled over, turn your dome light on, roll your window down, and place both hands on the steering wheel in plain view. That allows the officer to see into the vehicle and see where your hands are. If your windows are heavily tinted, roll all four windows down so the officer has a clear view into the vehicle.
Never exit the vehicle unless you’re told to do so. To the police officer, exiting the vehicle is an act of aggression. The safest place for you to be is inside the vehicle — you’re safe from getting hit by another vehicle, and the officer has better control of the situation.
Check your own state laws, but in Ohio, you have to notify the officer that you have a Concealed Carry license and you have your gun on you at the first practical moment. Don’t feel ashamed or try to hide the fact that you have a Concealed Carry license. It’s actually a good thing.
The CCW tells the officer several things about you that are helpful. It means that you’ve passed a background check, you don’t have a violent history, you’re a responsible citizen, and you’ve received training. All of this is good information that puts the officer more at ease than on edge.
“Every officer that stops a car assumes that there is something in that car that will hurt them or cause them not to go home at the end of that shift. When they encounter a citizen that has a CCW license, they start to relax a little bit.”
Even though some states don’t require you to tell the officer or that you’re armed, its a good idea all around. If you don’t tell the officer about your CCW, and he finds it when he runs your license in the car, he’s going to wonder why you didn’t tell him. You don’t know what the officer may be dealing with professionally or personally, so it’s a good idea to keep his blood pressure down – just tell him.
23:32 How should armed citizens respond if they see an officer in distress?
For example, you see someone holding a gun to an officer, you see someone beating up an officer, of an officer is struggling to cuff a suspect. Each situation is different, most of the time the officer is going to want help. In fact, failing to assist a police officer in distress is against the law in some states. Unfortunately, for every ten people who want to make sure the officer is ok, there is one who wants to run the officer over. So here are some guidelines on how to assist.
• Call out to the officer and ask if you can help. Don’t have your gun in plain sight unless it’s absolutely needed to defend the officer’s life, right now. You don’t want to make him wonder if he now has two people to fight instead of just one. The officer will be able to tell you if he needs help or not.
27:36 What level of force are you allowed to use to defend someone else, whether it’s a police officer or not?
The armed citizen should be informed on what their state allows them to do to defend another human being’s life. The situations can be vastly different.
For instance, if you see two strangers fighting in the street, you don’t know which one is the victim — or if there even is a victim in the situation. Inserting yourself into a situation like that could, at a minimum, cause a lot of civil problems for you if you hurt someone.
However, there are some situations in which a jury of your peers is going to side with you. If you helped a police officer, no jury is going to think that you should have assumed that the police officer is the aggressor and that you should have caused harm to the officer.
30:00 Is there a lawyer attached to every bullet?
Actually, there’s a life attached to every bullet. You want to make sure you’re saving the right person.
Use context and relevance in your decision making. Again, keep the gun put away unless it’s absolutely necessary.
In the case of an officer in distress, call out from a safe distance asking, “Officer is there something I can do to help you?”
If the officer is unable to respond because he is being choked or something like that, the situation certainly warrants that you go help. In most states, the law is going to back you up in that act in a way that’s similar to the Good Samaritan law: if you stop to help someone who has a medical injury, you are protected from a lawsuit as long you don’t do something beyond the scope of the situation, or your knowledge and skill levels.
33:15 In an active shooter situation, good guys carry guns too. How can a police officer distinguish the good guy from the bad guy? Do they even want armed citizens to assist? When do officers not want assistance?
• Don’t add harm to the situation. Don’t look like the aggressor. Be careful about where your gun is pointed and avoid the body language of an aggressor.
Remember that when that call goes out, police officers of all walks of life are responding — detectives and off-duty officers may not necessarily have a uniform on. As more officers arrives on the scene, they might see you before you are aware that they’re there. The officers who see what you’re doing assess your body language, and that plays a large roll in how they identify you as an aggressor or a good guy.
• You need to have Good Guy talk coming out of your mount any time your gun is out in the open in public. If you’re not actively shooting somebody who needs to be shot right then, but you’re moving or anything else, you need to be saying things like “Get out of here!” “Where’s the shooter?” “I’m here to help.” “Where’s the bad guy?”
If you are doing things like this, the officers will see you as an off-duty police officer (or a good goy), which is a good way to be seen.
• Keep your head on a swivel. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Be aware of time passing. If officers have arrived and the situation seems to be stabilized, there’s a point that it’s best for you to back away and remove yourself from the situation. Most of the time, by the time law enforcement rolls in, the event is already over. As an armed citizen, most likely not in uniform, there’s a chance that uniformed officers could shoot you. Unfortunately, uniformed officers have shot and killed detectives in some situations.
• Be aware that you put yourself at risk when you take on the responsibility of actively trying to help the situation, the same way that an off-duty police officer does. Once you see that law enforcement is on the scene, the best thing you can do is de-escalate for yourself and leave or move to an emergency-medicine role and help keep blood in bodies. There are lots of ways to help other than with your gun, and the scene is confusing enough.
• Also be aware that when people are running out of the building and describing the shooter, they might be describing you. They may have seen you with your gun and assumed that you were the shooter.
• These situations lend to much confusion. How many times are they initially reported as having multiple shooters, when in reality there aren’t, there were just some armed citizens responding to the situation. Oten, for hours after the shooting,the information is confusing at best. All kinds of things can go sideways.
41:51 If you’ve had to do defensive use of force before the police arrive at the scene, what should you do?
• Make sure that the scene is safe.
Bad guys have friends and families too. They get pissed off when you hurt their friends. If it’s not safe for you to remain at the scene, leave. get out of the area.
Some people believe you should never leave the scene, seeing that as an admission of guilt. In police language, “leaving the scene” means you left and you didn’t even bother to call —as in a hit and run. in that case you’re leaving the scene to escape something you’ve done wrong.
That’s not the same as what we’re talking about here. What we are saying is that you should leave the scene, go to the first safe place that you can, and call the police to let them know you were just involved in that confrontation. If you’re going to stay on the scene, put the gun away. The scene is not safe if you still think that you need to have the gun out.
• Be aware that when the officers arrive on the scene, they don’t know if you’re the good guy or the bad guy.
If they see you standing over a dead guy with a gun, they have to assume that you’re the bad guy, until proven otherwise. Put the gun away and make sure the officers can see your hands. Follow the directions that the officers give you.
Lots of people say you shouldn’t talk to the police officers about the incident, but Weyer clarifies this point. You do have the right to an attorney, ask for an attorney, but you still need to give the officers enough information to build a case for you.
For instance, if a guy ran at you with a knife and you defended yourself with a gun, then he ran off to the woods and dropped the knife, it would be good if the officers could go pick up that knife and have the evidence to corroborate your story.
Some people give even worse advice, saying you should pretend you’re having a heart attack to avoid speaking to the officers. If you’re having a heart attack, they’ll have to call an ambulance and you won’t have to speak to the officers. No. It’s just not smart to start out with a lie.
• Cooperate with the officers. Point out the evidence, point out the witnesses, and give them the information they need.
If you get to the point where they’ve taken you back to the police station and want to get your taped or written statement, that’s the time to have a lawyer present. If you’ve taken away another person’s life, it’s not going to go away easily so it’s a smart move to have an attorney with you during that type of questioning.
48:58 How should an armed citizen respond if a crime is happening but a law enforcement officer is not present?
• Get into a dominant position. That’s a position from which you can handle imminent events based on what what just happened. It’s a position with full visibility where you can see what’s happening as well as when officers arrive.
For example, a situation occurs while you’re at Quick Trip (that’s a gas station chain, if you don’t know). Get behind a counter for cover, with your gun at ready. From this position you’ve got good visibility of the situation and you can see through the windows when law enforcement shows up. When they do put the gun away.
This points out that it’s good to run scenarios on the places that you frequent. Where’s the exit? If you need to protect yourself, what is the best way to do it? What if you have to do it with your family in tow?
• Most robberies are quick. The robber comes in and demands the money, the clerk hands it over, and the thief runs away. The best thing for an armed citizen to do in this case is to be a great witness. If you enter a firearm into a situation where 99.9% of the time nobody would have gotten hurt, now you’ve got shots fired.
That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be ready. If it looks like it’s going to go bad, someone’s going to get hurt, and you feel the responsibility to protect yourself or another human being using deadly physical force, be strategic. Be wise about when you introduce the firearm. The fact that you are armed should be a surprise to the bad guy. Try to make the draw when he’s looking away.
Still, even an off-duty police officer is going to do nothing in a robbery unless it looks like somebody is going to get hurt and he has a responsibility to intervene.
54:06 As an armed citizen, how can you mentally prepare yourself for a situation that may require the use of your gun?
Situations never go down the way you think they’re going to. That’s why it’s good to run yourself through visualization drills. Ask yourself the what-ifs. A trainer can’t teach you how to respond to every possible situation, but if he can teach you solid vital skills, you can learn to think tactically — not just shoot, but think tactically. It’s problem-solving.
• Most people who do visualization training never visualize themselves getting hurt, but they should.
How are you going to win the fight if you got punched in the face or stabbed? How are you going to come out on top? Don’t just visualize yourself getting the bad guy. Figure out what you’re going to do if you get hurt or your kid gets nabbed. The shooting is the easy part.
” Shooting is only ten percent of gun fighting.” ~John Chapman
The better you are at gun-handling skills, the more your mind is free to think about tactics, analyze the situation, and problem solve.
1:03:10 How can you learn more about Alliance Police Training?
Military, police officers, citizens come from all over the country (all over the world, really) to train at the Alliance Police Training facility.
Find it at alliancepolicetraining.com to see the schedule and the instructors that are hosted at the facility each year. Alliance Police Department offers some staff-instructed courses as well. Some of the classes include Well Armed Parent, Tactical Tracking, Fighting In and Around Vehicles, Night Vision, Shoot House, Handgun, and Carbine,