Glen Hoyer says the time for the concealed carry license holder to determine how to interact with the police is before the police are ever called.
“You’ve got to think ahead, you’ve got to prepare,” Hoyer told seminar attendees during the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis on April 16, 2023.
Hoyer is a career law enforcement officer and NRA’s Law Enforcement Division director. At the NRAs annual meeting, he leads the seminar, “Armed Citizen: How to Interact with Law Enforcement.” The seminar aims to provide law-abiding firearms owners with the information they need to make the process run as smoothly as possible.
He said the first step is for the gun owner to understand the mind of the police officer. He said every police officer has one goal in mind.
“The officer’s number one job, at the end of the day, is to go home to his family,” Hoyer said.
With that in mind, the officer will arrive ready to do what he or she needs to keep everyone safe. It’s also important to realize that upon arrival, the officer will have limited information. So, he will do what he is trained to secure the scene, preserve evidence and gather information, he said.
When firearms are involved, Hoyer said, people will get searched, handcuffed, and placed in a police car. This means the officer will use whatever force is necessary and legal.
“There is nothing personal; they are simply trying to secure the scene,” Hoyer said. “It’s a whole lot easier to apologize later.”
At the same time, it’s essential to know your rights and responsibilities under the law. Some states require a concealed carry license holder to immediately notify a police officer that they have a gun. Some only require answering truthfully if the officer asks, and some states don’t require notification.
“Know the law in your area,” Hoyer said.
In addition, he said it is essential to know your legal rights and to exercise those rights properly.
For example, under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a citizen can refuse to allow a law enforcement officer with no warrant to search their person or property. However, arguing, taunting, or belittling the officer will only heighten tension. Politely declining could have long-term benefits.
“That sounds a whole lot better to a judge and jury,” Hoyer said.
He said it is important to ensure the officer knows he has nothing to fear from the gun owner. Ensuring your hands are visible, making no sudden moves, and following instructions can communicate to the officer that you are not a threat.
Hoyer said simply asking, “What would you like me to do?” can go a long way when dealing with a police officer.
Find Your Lawyer Ahead of Time
He added that under certain circumstances, an officer doesn’t need permission to search. If the officer believes he could be in danger, he can generally search for weapons.
He told the group that it’s important to be cooperative and polite, even if the police are excited. When dealing with the officer, especially in stressful situations, it is not a good idea to begin arguing your case.
Hoyer said the better route is to note what is happening so you can tell your attorney about it later.
And, he said, anyone who carries a gun should have insurance and the number of a good lawyer. Hoyer said homeowner’s insurance won’t cover a shooting, and sitting in a jail cell facing possible criminal charges is the wrong time and place to start lawyer shopping.
“You don’t necessarily have to have one on retainer, but the time to find an attorney is not when you need one,” Hoyer said.