On November 9, 2015, a retired Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Kellam made national headlines by helping catch a bank robber, David Duong. After witnessing the robbery from the drive-through teller line, Kellam chased Duong into a nearby neighborhood, catching and beginning to grapple with him. As Duong reached for a gun, Kellam drew his own gun and shot Duong several times, leading to Duong’s capture. Kellam’s training and experience helped apprehend an armed and dangerous felon.
Stories like this demonstrate that retired police officers can be a huge asset in helping to protect the public. Fortunately, Kellam was able to recognize the in-progress robbery and his protector mindset kicked in to apprehend the suspect.
The Value of Retired Police
Retired police officers can be force multipliers when it comes to protecting communities. To enable them to continue using their training and experience, federal legislation exists to allow retired officers to carry concealed firearms almost anywhere in the United States. Let’s examine the legislation that gives Kellam, and most other retired police officers, the right to carry a concealed firearm.
Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act
H.R. 218, also known as the Law Enforcement Officers’ Safety Act (LEOSA), was signed by President George W. Bush in July 2004. This legislation exempts current and retired law enforcement officers from most local and state conceal carry laws and allows them to carry in almost every jurisdiction. However, there are still several exceptions to this rule so let’s take a closer look at several of LEOSA’s guidelines.
Arguably the most important piece of LEOSA lies in determining to whom these exemptions actually apply. In order to benefit from these exemptions, each current and/or retired police officer must go through a vetting process that determines them to be qualified. Law enforcement officers who do not meet the criteria are not considered qualified and therefore cannot operate under these exemptions or use them as a criminal defense during any legal proceedings that result from unauthorized carrying.
Qualified officers can either be active or retired. A qualified active officer must be a current employee of a government agency who:
- is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or the incarceration of any person for any violation of law;
- has statutory powers of arrest or apprehension under the Uniform Code of Military Justice;
- is authorized by the agency to carry a firearm;
- is not the subject of any disciplinary action by the agency which could result in suspension or loss of police powers;
- meets the standards, if any, established by the agency which require the employee to regularly qualify in the use of a firearm;
- is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance, and
- is not prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm.
A qualified retired police officer must be one who:
- has separated from service in good standing with a government agency as a law enforcement officer for an aggregate of ten (10) years or more or separated from such an agency due to a service-connected disability after completing any applicable probationary period of such service;
- has not been disqualified by a medical professional as unfit for service because of mental health issues;
- was authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, or the incarceration of any person for any violation of law;
- had statutory powers of arrest or apprehension under the Uniform Code of Military Justice;
- is not under the influence of alcohol or another intoxicating or hallucinatory drug or substance; and
- is not prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm.
In addition, LEOSA includes the following information in its definition of which officers are qualified under this legislation:
- Amtrak Police Department
- Federal Reserve Police Department
- Any law enforcement officer of the executive branch of the federal government
Another important section of LEOSA outlines what types of documentation these officers need to have with them when they carry a concealed firearm. Active officers are only required to carry a photo ID issued by the department that they work for.
Retired police officers must also carry an official agency photo ID, which states their retirement status, along with documentation which certifies that they have met the active police agency standards for firearm proficiency within the past 12 months. It is important to note that this certification should reflect proficiency with the same type of firearm that the retired officer carries. No other IDs or permits are required for concealed carry.
Apart from being qualified and carrying the proper paperwork, here are a few other important exceptions of LEOSA:
- Machine guns, silencers, or explosives are not included in LEOSA’s definition of “firearm”
- High-capacity magazines are not allowed, per the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
- Officers are not exempt from federal regulations, meaning they cannot carry onto aircraft or other “common carriers,” federal buildings or property, national parks, etc.
- Officers are not exempt from state laws that prohibit carrying onto state or local property or private properties that prohibit firearms.
Agencies should support retired officers who meet these minimum requirements to carry concealed. After all, having well-trained, covertly armed law enforcement veterans on the street can be beneficial to public safety.
About the Authors:
Jeremy Nikolow is a police officer with the Daytona Beach Police Department, Florida, and adjunct faculty with colleges and universities. His law enforcement career began in 2005 and has involved several areas of patrol, investigations, SWAT, and specialized operations. Jeremy presently serves as a field training officer and SWAT operator. He graduated from American Military University in 2012 earning his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice.
Anthony Galante is part-time faculty member of Criminal Justice at American Military University. A former SWAT officer and retired law enforcement officer with more than 10 years of service, Anthony holds a Masters of Aeronautical Science degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University as well as being a past graduate of American Military University (MA Homeland Security 2012, MA Criminal Justice 2011). In addition to university teaching, Anthony is the Director of Training Services at the Unmanned Safety Institute, which is a strategy and technology firm delivering consulting, training, and analytics for clients in commercial industries and law enforcement seeking to integrate UAS into their daily operations.