Use Your Head
In the last week, I saw two separate incidents in the news regarding off-duty Chicago police officers. In the first one, the civilian agency that investigates CPD shootings released the video of a shooting from last April.
An off-duty police officer is sitting in his private vehicle. Two armed men jump in the car and attempt to take the car from the off-duty officer who was dressed in civilian clothing. You can’t see what happens in the car but after a moment the officer bails out of the parked car, draws his weapon and fires back at the two offenders still inside the car. Those offenders flee the vehicle while shooting at the officer. No one was struck by the shots, reported ABC7Chicago.
In the second incident, an off-duty probationary police officer was arrested and charged with aggravated assault after he pulled his weapon outside a tavern and pointed it at several people. The probationary officer stated he was helping the tavern bouncers with unruly patrons, ABC7Chicago reported.
To clarify an issue, a probationary officer is one who has recently been hired and does not gain full protection of the contract until his probation period is over. The department uses it to eliminate new officers who screwed up early in their career without the need for going through the long termination procedure.
Both officers made errors of judgment, one much more severe than the other. In the carjacking, the officer failed to keep his doors locked. Chicago has a rash of carjackings recently and it might have been solved had his doors been locked. However, after that the officer reacted as a trained professional in the manner he bailed out, drew his weapon, and fired, all while looking for cover. Good job officer.
The probationary police officer (PPO), on the other hand, made several large mistakes. First, it is not a good idea to take your gun with you into a place where liquor is being served. Of course, sometimes that can’t be avoided. I don’t know if this officer had a drink or not. It hasn’t been brought up as an issue yet. Still, it is advised that PPOs leave their weapons at home when they go out partying.
Second, it’s not our job to help the bouncers do their job. It’s what they get paid for.
Third, keep it in the holster unless you really must display it. After all, you’re not in Chicago.
I’m not looking to place blame on anyone here. Internal investigations will take care of that. I’m writing about these two incidents as a chance for all of us to learn. The carjacking shows us to never let our guard down. It’s a violent place out there and you need to always be ready for it. Oh, and lock your car doors.
My mother always worried about someone jumping in and attacking us. She was right. Keep those doors locked.
In the case of the PPO, I’m sure every officer with two years on the job sees problems with the officer’s actions. Had he left the gun at home there would probably not have been a problem. I can understand a young PPO’s desire to jump in and help, but discretion might have been a better choice in his case. Let the bouncers and the local police do their job.
Had there been someone’s life in danger the PPO would be lauded today as a hero rather than facing termination from his job.
Remember to always plan for what might happen. You put on your Kevlar vest because you might get shot. If you knew for sure that you were going to get shot, you should consider a new career. You carry more that one magazine for your weapon because you might need more bullets. Your pencil has an eraser because you might make a mistake. You lock your doors because someone might try to jump in and you leave your gun at home when you go to the bar for the night because stupid happens.
Please keep in mind, I have no personal or first-hand knowledge of what happened at both incidents. I only know what I saw in the news and we all know how inaccurate that can be. That is why this isn’t about blame. There could be more to the carjacking. Did the officer know the two offenders and open the door for them? I doubt it, but I don’t know. Could the PPO have been completely justified in his actions and done the right thing? Possibly. I don’t know. I wasn’t a witness.
Mom was right. Lock the car doors. The Boy Scouts were right. Be prepared. You’re a police officer, think ahead about where you are going and what you are going to be doing. Plan accordingly for it. Your best weapon sits atop your shoulders. Use it.
Stay safe everyone. Run low and zigzag.
Lt. Robert Weisskopf (CPD Ret.)