Open carry police encounter in Blacksburg

First, let me make it clear (for reasons to do with my private life) that it is not me in or filming this video. I got the link by way of the VCDL email list.

I’m not going to say that this unnamed carrier handled this the right way or not. I’m not sure. But I will note that with this being a college town (with the attendant prevalence of liberal attitudes) and the high-profile events that have happened here over just the last few years, having the cops come to check you out if you’re open carrying is something that should be expected. Open carry is a bit of a touchy topic around here (as Linoge noted when he visited). Another thing to remember is that all thta the officers who show up usually know is “there’s someone with a gun walking around” and that someone else was worried enough about it – for some reason – to call 911.

A couple of points. First, notice the officer as he gets out of the car. His index of suspicion is obviously pegged solidly at “normal.” You can see his left hand adjusting the volume on his radio, which is necessary because they have to turn it down when they get in the car to avoid feedback, but his right hand is not resting on or near his gun. In fact, that right arm is swinging pretty freely the entire time it’s visible. That is not the approach of a cop who has any real concern at all about the person he is approaching. (Because guess what? It’s extremely rare for a criminal, or someone with criminal intentions, to walk around openly carrying a gun. They like to try and be sneaky about things like that.)

The second point is the officer’s reaction once he gets the “silent treatment”. You can see he goes from “open and friendly” to “open and friendly but irritated” to “purely businesslike”. Considering that, ordinarily, the full silent treatment is pretty rude, his reaction is understandable. Yet he remains courteous throughout the encounter, and never becomes demanding or unprofessional.

Now, here I do need to disclose my potential bias. I know this officer from my many professional encounters with him while running EMS. My impression has always been that he is friendly, easygoing where his job allows it, and generally a good guy. I have never seen him act unprofessionally to people he has to deal with in an adversarial or investigatory capacity, or aggressively when aggression wasn’t called for, even when off camera.

I know that the person taping the encounter had no way of knowing it, but from my knowledge of this officer, and his body language in that video, I can say with pretty good confidence that he didn’t expect this to be anything more than a quick “make contact and log that he’s not doing anything illegal” encounter. He was also doing everything in his power to make it a friendly and quick encounter, and defuse any implied insult that might arise in a law abiding person from being stopped and questioned like that.

Personally, assuming I didn’t know the officer in question, I probably would have at least acknowledged the “Do you care not to speak” question. I think that was the point where he got irritated and shifted into “pure business” mode, and doing so might have avoided antagonizing someone who should be on our side, and who we want on our side. It also would not, I believe, have been anything that could be used against you legally. But I’m not going to go so far as to say that would have been the “right” way to handle it, or that the person in the video was wrong, just because I would have done something differently.

I would like to see an honest analysis from someone like LawDog or Matt G, or other LEO gunbloggers. I think it would be enlightening.

END OF LINE

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2 Comments

  1. Visitor

     /  April 18, 2012

    I think the officer acted very professionally, with the exception of the “your legal rights” comment. It seemed like he was mocking the guy that had the gun.

    That being said, this officer clearly understood that if he insisted that the fellow stop to talk with him he would have immediately been in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    While it seems that the silent treatment was quite rude, the fact that the guy stopped when the officer approached him was a courtesy that he *did not* have to extend. He could have continued to walk and ignore the officer. If the officer had insisted that he stop for a moment, the officer would have then violated his Fourth Amendment rights and been on some very shaky legal ground.

    Neither an anonymous “man with a gun” call to the police, nor even a handgun itself, are reasonable suspicion to conduct a stop under Terry v. Ohio.

    This encounter remained completely consensual on the part of both parties, which is why the officer was quick to let the guy go when he knew he wasn’t going to talk.

    I’d offer up that if I were the one in the video, I probably would have been a bit more courteous to the officer, but you can’t blame the guy for remaining completely silent. Some people open their mouths and say too much. The whole idea behind this conversation was for Officer Evans to obtain consent to a search or probable cause that he didn’t already have.

    Again, other than that comment, his handling of the situation was perfect, and if I knew how to contact him I’d call him and offer him my appreciation on behalf of those of us that carry a gun openly on a regular basis.

    Reply
  2. Could have been a better ambasador, but I think both acted fine.

    I think the officer started ou that way just to give the citizen an idea where he stood. You never know in these stops if the officer understands the laws or not, or if they are openly hostile to the law.

    Reply

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