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Police officers: never really off the clock

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


(Editorís note ó this column first appeared in the FWR #217)

Over the years, Iíve heard and read about many instances where off-duty police officers came to the aid of people in need of assistance. They could look the other way when trouble calls, but most donít.

Meet Karen. Karen is a police officer and the proud parent of two children. Karen isnít a real person, but her story is just an everyday example of the real life heroic acts carried out by police officers. A few weeks ago, Karen spent her Saturday and her day off from work shuttling her kids to their various activities. Karen enjoyed spending time with her kids. She was looking forward to taking both children to an early movie and then out to dinner.

On their way to the movie, Karen noticed the car in front of her was having trouble staying on the roadway. The carís speed was erratic too. Karen was concerned about the well being of the driver and everyone else on the road. Karen was not driving her police vehicle, but she used her cell phone to call a police officer that she knew was patrolling in the area. Under Indiana law, an officer canít make a valid traffic stop in most situations unless the officer is driving a clearly marked police vehicle and/or wearing a police uniform with a badge visible.

While she was describing the situation to the on-duty officer, Karen noticed the car in front of her crossed the center line into oncoming traffic before abruptly jerking back into the proper lane of travel. Karen continued to travel behind the vehicle and kept the on-duty officer apprised of their location. Several minutes later, the on-duty police officer pulled in front of Karenís car, activated his emergency lights and conducted a traffic stop on the car. Karen pulled in behind the squad car, got out and spoke with the officer.

As it turned out, the driver of the vehicle was an elderly man who was struggling with a health issue. She noticed he was wearing a medical bracelet indicating that he was diabetic. It appeared his blood sugar was low and in need of immediate medical attention. Karen assisted the man while the on-duty officer called for an ambulance. Karen didnít observe any signs of alcohol or drug intoxication, but the on-duty officer conducted a few quick tests just to make sure. Karen comforted the elderly man until medics arrived.

Karen and the kids missed the movie that night, but they still went out to dinner and had a great time. Karenís kids knew the drill. It wasnít the first time mom had to ďworkĒ on her day off and they knew it wouldnít be the last time either.

Karen could have chosen not to get involved that day. She could have looked the other way or just made a call and kept driving. She wasnít getting paid. She had her kids in the car with her and they had important plans. She could easily have justified getting to the movie on time._But Karen did get involved and that involvement probably saved one or more lives that day.

Whether itís rushing to the aid of a person in distress or stopping someone engaged in the commission of a crime, off-duty police officers regularly thrust themselves into important and sometimes dangerous situations.

They might be off the clock, but theyíre never really off-duty.


Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you.

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