U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Making Off-Duty Arrests

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 29 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2005 Pages: 54-57
Gerald W. Garner
Date Published
December 2005
4 pages
This article provides practical advice to lone off-duty police officers who are confronted with a decision as to whether or not to make an arrest after observing a crime being committed.
Off-duty officers must first assess the circumstances and determine whether attempting an arrest is likely to succeed without endangering lives, their own as well as others. Relevant questions officers should ask themselves are as follows: Am I armed? Do I have handcuffs, pepper spray, or a taser? Am I wearing body armor? Do I have my law enforcement credentials with me? Do I have radio communications with on-duty assistance? The assessment of limitations should also include such factors as the presence of the officer's family at the scene, as well as the reactions from and risks to bystanders if an arrest were attempted. This assessment of circumstances will determine whether an off-duty officer will attempt an arrest alone or call 911 and continue to assess the situation. Whether or not the off-duty officer attempts an arrest alone, he/she should call for on-duty law enforcement assistance. Some advice for officers who attempt an arrest before on-duty backup arrives is to keep one's identity as a law enforcement officer secret until a confrontation can be made from behind reliable cover. Do not move to a vulnerable position relative to the suspect. If it is determined that the suspect should be handcuffed and taken into custody, the approach should be from behind the offender while his hands are laced on top of his head. The suspect should be cuffed before being searched. Other advice pertains to taking action that will prevent being mistakenly identified as a criminal by either citizens or fellow officers.