D.C. Dilemma: Should Cops Be Armed 24/7?

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At weddings, on a weekend pub crawl or even poolside, off-duty police officers in Washington, D.C., are required to carry their guns. The Washington Post says that the nation’s capital may be the only jurisdiction in the country with such a policy.

D.C. officers are looking for a little relief. “If you’re going swimming or if you want to go to the park with your kids and you don’t want to take a weapon with you, you don’t have that choice,” said Gary Hankins, a former officer who serves as a consultant to the city’s police union. “The officer should be the one to have ultimate authority on whether or not to carry a weapon.”

It’s a twist on the nationwide push by law enforcement officers who want permission to carry their weapons all the time, everywhere they go — something most jurisdictions across the country don’t allow. One union official says that since Sept. 11, 2001, agencies everywhere are “doing just the opposite, fighting to be able to keep their weapons off duty.”

D.C.’s policy has come under scrutiny in the past few years; off-duty police officers who pulled out their service pistols to help at a crime scene have been mistaken for civilians and shot by police, said D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson. Patterson helped pass an amendment giving Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to relieve the officers of their weapons duty. He says he plans to by the end of the year. “If you’re going to a party and you’re going to be consuming alcohol, you shouldn’t be carrying your weapon,” Ramsey said.


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