In the law enforcement career, officers often find themselves stuck in the middle of a bad situation, and I am not talking about situations like being shot at or being in physical danger but rather being put in a situation where your job and your personal views collide. Yesterday, my Facebook feed was abuzz with stories about one of those very situations where I, as both a cop and a very pro 2nd Amendment American, was conflicted. There were links to various sites all saying essentially the same thing, that a decorated war hero was arrested in Temple, TX for “rudely displaying” an AR-15. Here is the Red Alert Politics story where I first read about it.
The Red Alert Politics story had small snippets of the video, but later in the day, I found a link to a video with almost the entire encounter captured. You should watch the full video because it fills in some pertinent information the other clips left out.
Now for my non-Texas cop analysis (cannot comment on the specifics of the Texas open carry or concealed carry laws). In my opinion, both sides in this incident did things both right and wrong. For those of you who are concealed carriers, or for those who open carry where it is legal, please at least try and consider what I say below and keep it in the back of your minds if and when you are contacted by law enforcement. Additionally, know all your local applicable laws.
1) All people should understand that when law enforcement gets a call for service from a citizen, we have an obligation to investigate it. Also, please consider that some people who call the cops tend to exaggerate a situation, whether it be intentional or due to their own illogical, irrational fear of guns.
2) Not all people who might be walking down the road open carrying an AR-15 are good, law abiding, war heroes. Sometimes, bad people walk around with guns too. As cops, we cannot magically tell the difference when looking at them.
3) When an officer is placed in that situation, given information from one person (the caller), who either right, wrong or indifferently says a man is walking down the road brandishing a firearm in a threatening manner, and having to contact that other person (man with the gun), we approach that situation very cautiously as our #1 job is to go home safe to our families at the end of the day.
4) As the cop, the first thing I am going to do is to have the person with the gun remove their hands from the gun. (This may have happened but we do not know because the video does not pick up until a little later. By the time the video picks up, the contact is already going sideways and we have no way of knowing what the reason for that is, we can only speculate.) To those that ask why, because being placed in this situation that I have to investigate, and not knowing who I am dealing with, I do not want that person’s hand on their gun. If they aren’t touching it, they can’t use it.
– I read many comments in response to the various articles where persons said the cops should have asked Grisham to unload or remove his gun, but I disagree for the very reason I stated above.
– I do not know TX concealed carry laws, and have read people saying both sides of this, but at this point, some say the licensed carrier is required to identify theirself as one. No matter what the law states, it would be wise for the citizen to identify theirself as a licensed concealed carry holder upon initial contact.
5) Based on the information in the call, I may or may not remove the weapon from the individual, but most likely would err on the side of safety and temporarily remove it and render it safe (unload or secure it in the car). While some would argue this decision, it is truly in the best interest of both parties involved. As the cop, I do not have to worry about the subject doing anything with the weapon to try and hurt me or someone else, and as the citizen, the cop is now going to be significantly more relaxed and less likely to take some innocuous movement of mine to be a threat which causes him to react.
– I cringed watching the officer sweep Grisham’s head with his own .45 as he handed it to his Sgt.
6) Grisham, in this video, does not do himself any favors by the way he is acting. No, he did not commit any crimes in acting the way he did, but he certainly did not benefit from his actions. Remaining calm and rational during an encounter like this not only goes miles toward convincing the officer you are not a threat, but it will also help convince the officer that your version of the incident (which he should ask for in investigating the incident, something that does not happen in this video) is accurate.
7) The officers should also be contacting the original caller just to verify if a crime did in fact occur or not as, at least where I work, that is not the job of the person taking the 9-1-1 call. We have no way of knowing if this was done at all, or when.
8) I hate to second guess anyone, cop or not, without having all of the information, but with that said, in this situation, at least from what can be viewed in this video (I have no idea what happened out of view of the camera or what other information the officers may have had), my opinion is they should have dusted Grisham off, given him his firearms back, apologized for the inconvenience and all been on their way.
Please know, as I have pointed out many times in the past, that I and most people in law enforcement are very pro-gun people. That fact is evident in the extensive PoliceOne.com survey I spoke about recently. However, we are also very cautious when approaching an unknown person with a gun. We all (cops and citizens alike) want to go home safely at the end of the day. Remaining calm and collected (cops and citizens alike) is in everyone’s best interest.