For your safety: Pros and cons of assisting police during confrontations

For your safety: Pros and cons of assisting police during confrontations
(Pixabay)

There's been a great deal of attention lately to a variety of social media posts showing people standing around with their cell phones recording confrontations between police officers and violent subjects.

This raises a question as to why people are just standing around with their cell phones recording the confrontation, rather than calling 911 or offering assistance to the police officer involved. Let me shed some light on this topic and provide some useful tips.

As we were taught in the police academy, any time a police officer is involved in a confrontation, a weapon is involved. It's the one that belongs to the officer.

One of the greatest concerns of any police officer is that they get disarmed by a violent offender and the gun is used against both them and innocent persons in the area.

So most importantly on that officer's mind when he or she does get into a violent confrontation, is the protection of the firearm that they are carrying. And, for obvious reasons, the safety of that firearm should also be a noted concern for everyone standing in the immediate area.

First, as soon as you see a confrontation between a police officer and a violent subject, immediately call 911 and stay on the phone with the dispatcher.  Nothing is more needed by the officer involved in that confrontation at the moment, than the assistance of his fellow officers.

So do what you can to get other officers there quickly by providing an accurate address/location, and description of what is happening at that moment to the dispatcher.

Second, knowing that a firearm is involved (see above), you should move to a position of cover. Somewhere that you will be safe from possible gunfire, but still able to assist the 911 dispatcher with accurate information.

If you see the officer is struggling to gain control of the situation, it is completely a personal choice if you want to get involved with physically assisting the officer. But if you do decide to assist, here are some guidelines that you need to follow.

Never approach a police officer unannounced.

Once you have made a decision to physically assist the officer involved, never walk up on them without verbally announcing yourself in a very loud voice to the officer.  For example, "Officer, I'm here to help you." Make sure the officer has acknowledged your presence before taking any further action.

Always follow the police officers instructions.

Once you have announced yourself to the police officer, the officer will direct you what to do. If the officer tells you to stay away, then do exactly that. Do not engage with the officer and continue to be a good witness for the police. But if you have offered your assistance, and the officer tells you something like, "grab the subjects left leg," then if physically possible, do exactly what the officer has asked you to do. Follow the instruction of the police officer at all times.

Worst case scenario.

If you do come upon a scene where a police officer has been incapacitated, try to communicate verbally with the downed police officer. If they do not respond to you due to their physical condition, do not hesitate to utilize either their handheld radio or the police radio inside their vehicle to call for help. You don't need to say anything fancy, just state your location, who you are, and what you see at the moment. This will be a much more expedient way for you to get help there quickly and will be much more effective, than trying to dial 911 and possibly getting put on hold. Once you have called for help, then return to the officer and render any standard first aid you have been trained to perform.

Citizens with legally concealed firearms.

It is a personal choice if you choose to be a legally armed citizen. But as we know, there are many legally armed citizens in our society. Some have former military or police backgrounds, while others have been through the required state training to legally carry a concealed firearm. Please understand, the state laws of self-defense are applicable at any time.

And if you make the personal determination that you must utilize deadly force to protect the life of yourself or the police officer from the violent subject, then that is a determination that you will need to make within a few seconds. Make sure that you have made the right decision. There have been several reports over the past few years of citizens who have done exactly that, and have saved the life of a police officer and others.  But that is a personal decision that you will have to make at that moment.

Do not carry a firearm unless you have been professionally trained on how to use it and always continue your training with that firearm. And do not leave your firearm accessible to minors.

Here is another rule to follow: NEVER draw your legally concealed firearm at the scene of an officer-involved violent confrontation without first advising the officer that you are a legally armed citizen there to help them, and the officer has acknowledged your presence.

During a violent confrontation, things are moving very rapidly through the officer's mind, their self-preservation being a priority. So, if you have not verbally announced yourself to the officer and they have acknowledged you, then there is a great possibility that the officer will see you draw your firearm and interpret that as a hostile act toward them.

Another rule. NEVER stand around in the area of the confrontation, with your weapon drawn and in view of the public. As additional police officers respond to the scene, either in uniform or undercover, they will have no idea if you are a good citizen wanting to help, or a criminal intent on furthering the commission of a crime.

All they will immediately interpret is that you are a person standing there with a firearm in your hands. In this case, you will only complicate the situation and put yourself in further danger.

Providing assistant to police officers in need is something that has been a mainstay of American justice since the days of law enforcement posse's forming up to assist the local sheriff or town marshal. But to be done correctly, and diligently, for yourself, the officers, and the surrounding public, safety needs to be your first consideration.