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UK Police: When to intervene whilst you're off duty

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Hi there, 

I currently serve as a special constable and was curious as to what people's views are on intervening whilst off duty. I've seen quite a lot around about being a key witness rather than intervening unless lives were in danger, which I totally understand. 

 

However, sometimes i'm in situations that I think to myself "Should I do something or say something". For example in a club I often get a guy come up to me and offer to sell me a plethora of drugs, I can quite literally see them as he shows off the little packets of what are usually pills or some form of Class A. I obviously just say no, but do I have a duty to do more? I feel silly asking, but people's opinions are so varied as to where you should draw the line between your duty and your "civilian life", as it were. 

What would you do in this situation? 

Thanks so much for any input! 

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Is it something you should deal with, is it something you could deal with?
Personally if someone offered me drugs but I didn't see them I would submit Intel when next on duty. If someone showed me a load of drugs the I would phone it in and try to get on duty officers there to deal (no pun intended).
Step in and try to capture dealer may result in a couple of his minders bundling you into the toilet as he makes his escape and you are left feeling silly and bruised.
My intervention while off duty went back to line one of the responsibilities - the protection of life and (sometimes) property.


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51 minutes ago, Sectioned Detection said:

Just don't do it. Call 999 or 101 as it's not worth the risk/hassle.

There are times that comment would be a disgrace, but, in the circumstances outlined you would have to think very carefully of the pro's and con's. In a cluib you would be grossly outnumbered but there are more ways of killing a cat than choking it. 

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4 minutes ago, Zulu 22 said:

There are times that comment would be a disgrace, but, in the circumstances outlined you would have to think very carefully of the pro's and con's. In a cluib you would be grossly outnumbered but there are more ways of killing a cat than choking it. 

Why would it be a disgrace? Being a cop is a disadvantage when off duty. Unless someone's going to die if you don't get hands on your safer being a professional witness. In your example just go and get security. 

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A lot depends on the circumstances, but by our profession it is difficult to turn your back. Many times it is the instinct that kicks in and we are obliged to do something, and we often take charge of a situation. 

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And there lies the problem, the 'taking charge' attitude if what lands cops in trouble off duty. What they should be doing is the minimum to keep everyone safe till someone on duty arrives. In many cases a simple Intel report would suffice. Long gone are the days when being an officer was an advantage. 

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I made many off-duty arrests during my service and considered it my duty to do so. It is difficult to ignore a thief coming out of a shop window display with a television under his arm or someone stabbing a passer-by. However, it is always wise to weigh up the circumstances in each case and in the example described it would probably be foolhardy to intervene immediately. I suspect it would be best to summon assistance of on-duty officers or go down the `intelligence' route.  The wrong approach would be to say, ``I'm off duty,'' and do nothing. At least passing on intelligence is a form of intervention.

I recollect an incident many years ago where a fight took place in a public house between 2 males who were quickly ejected from the premises by staff but continued their confrontation outside. On duty officers arrived and arrested them but while all this had been happening an on-duty officer was standing at the public bar quaffing a pint of the foaming ale while watching the combat.

Someone reported this and, to cut a long story short, the officer concerned was dealt with under the Discipline Regs. for neglect of duty. His defence that he was off duty fell on deaf ears and he was told that, despite being off duty, he still had a duty as a sworn officer to take action. 

I take that would still be the case today.

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I think it would, and I think it should.
This raises an interesting dilemma though. Does the officer who has consumed several pints at the bar who puts himself on duty to deal with a fight leave himself open to being disciplined for being drunk on duty?


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You would have to judge the circumstances but, to do nothing would be a no, no. As OC says it may be an intel thing or waiting for on duty officers to arrive and then you could always put yourself on duty, if need be. Once a Cop, always a cop and, doing nothing is just not compatible with serving.

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I was once a cop but I am no longer. I left my powers and legal responsibilities with my warrant card when I retired.


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12 hours ago, Reasonable Man said:

I was once a cop but I am no longer. I left my powers and legal responsibilities with my warrant card when I retired.


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But I am sure you would still be a "key witness"- not least because you continue to be in the policing environment?

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19 hours ago, Reasonable Man said:

I think it would, and I think it should.
This raises an interesting dilemma though. Does the officer who has consumed several pints at the bar who puts himself on duty to deal with a fight leave himself open to being disciplined for being drunk on duty?


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Good point and I should say that when I was recounting the tale of the officer who was disciplined for not intervening in the pub fight, which I mentioned in my previous post, to a former colleague he reminded me that the officer concerned was also `done' for drinking in uniform, despite being off duty. 

The officer concerned was minus his police headgear and tunic and although he had a `civvy'  jacket over his police shirt it was still visible and was wearing uniform trousers and police boots and was still recognisable as a police officer wearing part uniform to the extent that senior officers considered him to be `in uniform.'  

I suspect that had he intervened in the fight or 'phoned for assistance this aspect of the matter might have been overlooked but in all the circumstances he was also proceeded against for the drinking in uniform offence. I wonder how many officers have turned a blind eye to incidents due to them having consumed alcohol.

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17 hours ago, Reasonable Man said:

I was once a cop but I am no longer. I left my powers and legal responsibilities with my warrant card when I retired.


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We certainly lose our police powers and professional responsibilities when we retire and that that provides us with more of a choice about what to do if we witness a crime taking place.  Again, it all depends on the circumstances. 

I was not long retired when I witnessed a couple of youths selling drugs to teenagers in a car park and, in all the prevailing circumstances, i  chose to do nothing other than pass on information to the local police. However, I did intervene on an occasion when I witnessed a man knocking the living daylights out of a young woman and consider I took the correct action. Would you go to the assistance of a police officer who was being assaulted or pass by in the other side?

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I would intervene to prevent anyone from being assaulted, having assessed the risk (I don't think I would take on a dozen Hells Angels armed with knives and chains). That's being a good citizen IMO. I did exactly that as a 17 year old and used it as an example in my interview for the job. Three lads were picking on a black guy in a racist attack because he had white girlfriend, I saved the black guy from a beating as the bullies didn't think 3 v 2 was good enough odds for them.


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