We talk a lot about self-protection, officer safety and officer survival at tactical-officer.com, but what about safety off the job? What steps should an officer take to keep the bad guys from finding him when he is off duty?
Identity protection used to be fairly easy for police officers. Police officers would opt for an unlisted phone number and get a post office box. Some would use their department’s address for their driver’s license and vehicle registration. In the age of the internet, cellular phones and GPS technology it has become far less easy to maintain anonymity.
Social Media and the internet
Sites or Apps such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have features that make it easy to find people. Some officers choose to ignore them completely, but for many who use them to stay connected to family and friends from around the world it is not that easy or have family members in the home who use them.
Keep personal information to a minimum such as the agency for which you work or what town in which you reside. When posting pictures of vehicles, obscure the license plate. The same goes for address numbers on houses and serial numbers on firearms.
Sites such as peoplefinders.com and whitepages.com access public record searches and make this information available for public consumption. Some of them offer removal of information for a fee.
Some of these apps such as Facebook, Yelp and Twitter have a feature to telegraph the location from where you are posting. It is probably not a bad idea to turn that setting off. It not only can alert a potential stalker of your location, but can apprise him of when you are not home.
FOP stickers, Department ball caps, Police T-shirts and other memorabilia may be a source of pride, but they can red flag you as a police officer, too. Be the “gray man” and try to blend in as much as possible.
Many of the techniques and practices we write about at tactical-officer.com are just as applicable when off duty. The OODA Loop, Color Code system and a Combat Mindset do not stay in a gear locker when your shift ends.
Carry a concealed weapon when off duty. Spouses and children who are mature enough should be instructed in how to safely handle firearms and as they are potential targets as well, they should be trained in how to react to a violent attack.
Do not underestimate a criminal with a vendetta. While we all know they do stupid things, they can be very cunning when it comes to revenge. Criminals are by their nature sociopathic predators. Before a heist most of them do their homework, conduct surveillance and look for weaknesses. Vary driving routes and parking spaces, look for possible surveillance, in the aftermath of a contentious court case.
Most importantly, be prepared to take action off duty when necessary. Stay safe.
About Mike S.
Mike has worked around firearms his entire adult life starting as a Marine Rifleman at 17 and continuing as a gunsmith, ballistician, instructor, consultant and writer. An avid shooter and martial artist, he has written over 1000 articles about Mixed Martial Arts, boxing, knives and firearms for online media and print magazines such as RECOIL, Gun Digest's Tactical Gear, Blade, and SWAT.