A new federal law allowing off-duty and retired officers to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the nation has police officials scrambling over liability issues, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Surrounded by national Fraternal Order of Police officials and congressional leaders at the White House, President Bush signed the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act on July 22. It allows off-duty officers – and retired police who have met certain criteria – to carry concealed firearms across state lines. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and other regional brass are worried that the law might present liability problems if an off-duty officer misuses a department weapon in another state. Johnson has issued a temporary order banning officers from carrying city-owned weapons outside the state. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has labeled the law “a trial lawyer’s dream” because of liability questions. “What if our police arrest someone with a gun who claims to be a retired or off-duty police officer in Nome, Alaska? How do we check that? Is the Justice Department going to have a master list?” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. “If he shows us his credentials, how do we determine whether they’re valid? If we lock them up and he turns out to be a legitimate out-of-state police officer, of course he’s going to sue the Chicago Police Department.”
Philadelphia FOP president Bob Eddis agrees that extreme care must be used if an officer goes out of state with a sidearm. “We don’t want people out there acting irresponsibly,” he said. But he also took the tack that ever since the 9/11 attacks, it’s not a bad idea to have more armed law enforcement around. “You have more people able to react and take the necessary action,” Eddis said. The International Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the law. “Our opposition is based primarily on the fundamental belief that states and localities should determine who is eligible to carry firearms in their communities,” said Ronald Ruecker, the group’s vice president.