Do moonlighting off-duty police officers have special rights

First off, I have no problem at all with police officers or with them having second jobs. They have a hard job, and often get paid way to little for it.

Over in this pit thread, there is a discussion about a case of an off-duty police officer, working as a security officer, shooting someone during a crime.

Is a security officer, who happens to be an off-duty police officer, able to do things that a non-police security officer would not?

In the case listed above, a group of teens left a restaurant with out paying. The security officer, who happened to be an off-duty cop, followed them into the parking lot. The teens, in a Jeep, ended up driving AT the officer, who fired at the Jeep, killing one of the occupants.

If this had been a non-police security, would they have been justified to stand in the middle of a parking lot, placing themselves in a situation where they had to decide wheither or not to shoot? In the other thread, there are mentions that a police officer is allowed to shoot if they feel threatened. Fine, but this guy wasn’t on duty. He wasn’t threatened because he was a cop. He was threatened (by a Jeep) because he chose to stand in the middle of a parking lot.

Would this case have been dismissed if the security officer had been an average Joe-Blow. Would a moonlighting accountant have been able to claim justifable self-defense? Just how much special consideration is due to a police officer who is both off-duty?

In general, a cop is always on duty and is responsible for enforcing the law regardless of if he or she is working.

From Cecil

Are they always on duty in reality or in theory? I mean, are police officers at no time “civilians”, or are they considered to be just people (though registered to carry a gun, presumably) on their off-hours? And if they make an arrest while off-duty, is that arrest by a cop or a citizen’s arrest?

I don’t know if it’s technically a citizens arrest or a regular arrest. It seems largely a matter of semantics to me as the cop can just bring you to the station and either fill out the paperwork himself or give it to one of his pals on duty.

I believe they are not “civilians” in the sense that they can never be like “oh…I’m off duty so I can’t arrest you”.

Well, it depends on the cop, what he thinks he can get away with, and what his personal work ethic is. My friend’s brother is a cop, and he takes his job pretty seriously, and considers himself always on duty. He’s literally always “on alert”, watching for lawbreakers and handling whatever he sees that needs handling. (It looks to be exhausting, honestly, but he’s happy that way.) Then there’s that other local cop we sometimes smoke weed with. :smack:

But I think it’s pretty clear that if a major car accident happens outside a cop’s house, or an armed robber steals from the donut shop, the off duty cop would be expected to do something about it. If nothing official, societal pressure would dictate that those who know what to do in an emergency should be the ones doing. And the way they train those guys (not to mention the kind of law and order do-gooders who self select to become officers), there’s little doubt that the vast majority of police officers will not stand by and let chaos ensue simply because they’re not punched in.

If they make an arrest, it’s a real, police arrest.

I went with a cop for ten years. He considered himself to be on duty 24/7. I personally witnessed him make two police arrests while we were together (shoplifting and assault) and stop at three car accidents to hep the victims.

For what it is worth, I know in the military you may be on your weekend, you may be in civilian clothes but are ALWAYS on duty when it comes to acting in the honorable way expected (at least traditionally) of a serviceman. This just comes to mind from the very similar way in which ‘civilian’ vs. ‘on duty’ is used.
When it comes to theory vs. reality in the service one may be courtmartialed etc. by the military standard of right and wrong (which is usually more strict for obvious reasons) 24/7/365.
I personally would think that my paid public policemen are on duty all the time. I have asked them to provide a public safety service and expect them to do so without regards to the punchcard and the time clock. I would pay them for any time spent working ‘off duty’ and cover the medical expenses as well.
I do wonder though, did he HAVE to stand in the street and if he was going to fire (there is a time for the cops to shoot and kill) why not shoot to disable the vehicle? It can be tough, but I’ve seen it done.
Just makes you wonder, how many of us sure did something stupid/illegal in our teen years, and how many of us deserved to be killed for it? It sure wasn’t smart to try and use the rig as a weapon for those kids…

It all depends on the state and department. Department policy dictates everything.
Many times when an officer gets in troubel for something he did, it boils down to violating department policy.

The department I worked full time for over 10 years had a policy that off duty one MUST have their weapon & ID card at all times they were with the jurisdiction, and were to put themselves on duty when it was reasonable to do so in a given situation. The exception was if the officer had consumed intoxicating liquors.
I didn’t live within the jurisdiction of the department, so I didn’t concern myself with it.

The department I work for now [part-time] specifically does not want you to take any action off duty unless there is a threat of death or great bodily harm. For a long time they were even pissy about carrying a weapon off duty. The policy is that an off duty cop at a crime scene is just a witness.

Something to remember, police officers are usually licenced by a state agency, much like many other specialty trades like paramedics, nurses, doctors, attorneys, firefighters, locksmiths, notaries, etc. Your “licence to practice” is bound to you, not your employer.

Since you still hold the title off or on duty, you can pretty much utilize it even if you are not on the clock and still have it carry weight.

An MD could just as easily write you a prescription on a streetcorner as in an office.

It’s not a citizen’s arrest. The police officer is a “sworn officer” and that means that he, as an individual, has been imbued by the government with police powers, one of which is the power to execute an arrest, not a citizen’s arrest but a “good ol’ regular cop’s arrest.”

And while it’s slightly off the topic, a Real Cop also has the power of detainment: “I have a good reason to want to talk to you about something going on, and you’re going to do it.” You’re not arrested, but don’t run away.

This is one of the major differences between private security and real cops. My Target security buddy just told me about having to let someone walk out because no one actually saw the CDs get put down the pants or in a purse. They just “disappeared” as the suspicious person walked out of sight in the store, and couldn’t be found. As a private guard, he couldn’t be sure he was witnessing the commission of a misdemeanor, and he let them go. I think a real cop would have detained the person to see what was up.

As Monty and other have said, an “off-duty” police officer’s arrest is a real arrest, not a citizen’s arrest. For example, resisting an arrest by a properly identified officer will subject one to criminal penalties. (Not so a citizen’s arrest, though assault charges might be appropriate depending on the circumstances.) He/she also has the power to detain suspects, conduct searches (with probable cause), etc., which ordinary security personnel generally do not. The flip side, though, is also important. When making such an arrest, detention or search, the officer is subject to all the same legal and departmental requirements which apply when he/she is on duty. So, yes, an off-duty officer has all the same powers (and that’s the word I would use rather than “rights”), but he/she also has all the same responsibilities. Thus, whether this particular use of force was acceptable is an open question, but those are the standards and procedures are the ones by which the question would be resolved.

Err, make that … but those are the standards and procedures by which the question would be resolved.

While attending community college, I had a part-time job as a private security officer. I liked the job, and I really liked meeting the famous people (Jay Leno, Tiger Woods) at some of the events for which the company provided security. Well, one very interesting part of the job qualification was the private security officer exam required by the State of California. Turns out that California has laws governing when a private security officer may detain an individual when effecting a citizen’s arrest and how said guard may so detain said individual. The training before the exam and the exam itself made quite clear what the difference was between a private security officer’s duties and powers and a sworn police officer’s duties and powers regarding arrest and detention of suspects.

Apparently, I was lucky. The company for which I worked then was very professional and almost all the guards did their job in a professional manner.

Frankly, I didn’t know California had special rules. (For general principles, this Wiki article is a fair summary.) Do they expand or restrict a private security guard’s authority? And was this specific to guards or are you speaking of the merchant’s statute (which entitles them to detain shoplifting suspects, but applies to all agents of the merchant, not just guards)? Took a quick look around the web, but didn’t find much.

This happened to me while I was young (around 21) and in New Zealand, so bear that in mind…

I was once rushing from one job to a second, changing my clothes in the car as I went. I wsa trying to change lanes, properly indicating, waiting etc. The car behind and to my left (a Toyota Starlet that was around 15 years old) sped up to block the space. I showed the driver my displeasure in no uncertain times. Next thing I know there is a badge hanging out the window and I am told to “pull over”.

It turns out the driver was the boss of an out of district station (an inspector, no less). He read me the riot act, went over the car with a fine tooth comb looking for illegalities (never asked to check the interior and I wouldn’t have let him if he did) before letting me go with what he called a warning. Thinking on it afterwards it was evident that he was off duty (car he was driving, not in full uniform) and I felt that I was pulled over to satisfy his feeling that I had pissed him off.

Wht was interesting was that I was driving without shoes (illegal) and never got a ticket, so I think he was just full of bluster.

I would always advocate that cops are on duty ALL the time, but there are limits on their power when they are off the clock.

I really don’t think that’s right. For one thing, you have the comments of the other posters here, and then there’s this issue: “So I have the duties and responsibilities, but not the powers I need to do them? What a deal.”

Not really Cardinal - I am merely trying to suggest that certain things should be treated differently. For example, if I walk up to an officer in uniform, who is on duty and call him a pig, I can and should be hauled down to the station for my behaviour. If I call an off duty cop, who is in civvies, a syphilitic used condom if he has all the power he can bust me - but should he be able to for what is a “personal” insult in his capacity as a private citizen, and in no way directed to him as an officer of the law.

If I have a noisy party, a cop as my next door neighbour, can he arrest me for disturbing the peace because he can’t sleep, without going through other channels that a normal citizen would? (i.e reporting to noise control officer, making a complaint)

Now, if as an “officer” he wants to come over, identify what he does, and suggest I turn down the radio, and explain the consequences if I don’t - that is not a problem - I would be asking for trouble to ignore him, but I should also be safe from arrest to tell him to “take a long walk on a short pier” or similiar…after all, he is a “private” citizen

First, I don’t think you should be hauled off for calling a cop a pig. Threatening an officer is a crime, but I’m betting strongly the DA can’t find “insulting” as a code violation.

Again, I really doubt this. He is a sworn peace officer, and is witnessing a ticketable offence right in front of him. The fact that he’s in his pajamas I can’t imagine enters into it. It certainly wouldn’t for armed robbery. You try it out and let us know.

He’s not a private citizen, as I understand it, or has been indicated here. He’s simply not being paid for the hours at the moment. I think Chouinard Fan probably has the right analogy. Military and police are considered to be always held to their oaths, and no slacking off for Christmas.

Now, I knew an ex-cop, who told me that he had been instructed to call for on-duty cops if he saw something serious. Of course, that kind of goes without saying, as the tv cops are idiots to have gun fights and never call for support. But his point was that no one knows you’re a cop, you have your kids with you, your small gun, no vest, no backup shotgun, etc. But it was practical concerns, not legal/political ones that he was emphasizing.

Uhhh actually,

if the officer wants to nitpick, insulting an officer is a crime. (people I know have been arrested for it)

Also, disturbing the peace is a crime, but rarely enforced for parties. (in New Zealand we regularly **hear ** abt noisy parties being broken up by the police)

For major things I have no problem with being written up by any sworn officer, on duty or off…but what about minor offenses?

Can an officer on holiday issue me a speeding ticket for example (for maybe 10-15km/h over limit?) Should he be able to? (aside from the specific accuracy requirements of speeding tickets)

What about public drunkeness? (which is also a crime, although unlikely to get you arrested)

Essentially, what if an “off-duty” cop decides he doesn’t like me on a personal level? What stops him from arresting me for anything he can find? At least if he is in uniform there are some safeguards and I can moderate my behaviour accordingly - should I have to “moderate” my behaviour towards an off-duty cop? I refer you to the story above, should the officer have been able to issue me with a ticket if he wished?