Sheriffs Call for Citizens to Arm Themselves

What do David Cole, Paul Van Blarcum, Michael Helmig, and Wayne Ivey all have in common?  They are all Sheriff’s from across the country that have told the citizens they work, in their respective jurisdictions, that they should arm themselves if they are legally capable.  Not only to defend themselves, but those around them if a situation degrades to the point that law enforcement is called, and action needs to be taken before law enforcement arrives.  In light of recent events in California, Tennessee, and other places across the United States, law enforcement will most likely experience an uptick in requests from the public for training.  Law enforcement agencies must embrace these opportunities and use them to positively affect their efforts within their jurisdiction.

Since the San Bernardino incident, there have been several requests of various law enforcement agencies to provide everything from escorts in parking lots to security for holiday parties for various businesses.  “Is that what I do? Do I go to parties and protect our citizens, stuff like that?  Is that what it’s come to?  Unfortunately, yes, that’s what it is coming too”, Sheriff Sam Hobbs told Fox 59 News in early December.  If more agencies follow the lead of Sheriff Hobbs, there will be a whole new meaning for the “Party Patrol” in most agencies.  So how does an agency work within the new scope of public expectations or desires?  Here are some ideas.

Take the “Citizen Academy” concept to the next level.  Develop an academy for those citizens who have carry permits within our jurisdiction.  This is not to keep track of who those people are, but to inform them what to do in the case of an incident where they might feel they need to use force.  Review the pertinent laws of your state with them.  But most importantly tell them how to react in such a situation, and review with them what local law enforcement will expect from them when they arrive on the scene.  Let these citizens know why law enforcement might treat them as a threat as well when they first arrive on the scene.  Most importantly inform them of how they can be a help to your agency in a situation, instead of a hindrance.

Your agency can offer some courses for civilians within your jurisdiction to enroll in.  These courses could not only cover self-defense, but they could be a “neighborhood watch” type of class that focuses on how to be observant of activities around them.   When I think of these types of classes the image of Air Wardens from World War 2 come to mind.  Civilians are clamoring about; looking for ways they can “contribute” to what appears to be a war on America.   People all over the United States are answering the call of Sheriff Cole, Sheriff Van Blarcum, Sheriff Helmig, and Sheriff Ivey.   Use this desire to your agencies advantage.    San Bernardino proves that we are indeed in a war with those that hate America.  Let the citizens your agency protects help.

There is another area where your agency can contribute to the training of those civilians within your jurisdiction.  We have all had Active Shooter Training where we have worked in partnership with a local school or business.  But what about a general classroom session involving the employees of a local business.  Some businesses might also be interested in having someone from your agency come in and evaluate the weak points of their facility, making recommendations that would help them better handle an emergency situation.  

All of these ideas build a better report with the civilians that your agency protects.  It also allows your agency to make contacts in the community for future training, and who knows someday a business might provide grant moneys for your agency to use in funding purchases of equipment or training.

For many years those of us in law enforcement have been training our own, whether it be initial training, or training the incumbent officer during in-service.  With the growing threat of violence, whether it is an active shooter scenario or something of a lesser scale but still dangerous, many Americans are turning to law enforcement for guidance.  Many more are beginning to ask for training as well.  This is where we as a collection of law enforcement agencies should rise to the occasion and assist where we can.  It will only provide more opportunity for agencies to network and build relationships within the community.


David A. Crisler Jr. retired from a large metropolitan sheriff’s office in 2014 and is currently the Program Chair for the Homeland Security/Public Safety Program at a large community college.  He remains an active trainer within the public safety community, both locally and nationally.  He also performs consulting work in various public safety fields, and in his free time spends time with his wife Angela, their five children, and coaches high school football.  You can reach him at

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1 Comment

  1. Nosmoke225

    Sounds like a plan to me. I’ll be checking on anything available in my area after our new sheriff takes over his office in January.

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