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Who’ll protect you if you use lethal force in self-defense?

A legal service plan can protect you and your family in the event of the unexpected

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In the aftermath of a self-defense incident where they had to use lethal force, police officers may be suddenly put in the unfamiliar position of being the suspect. CCW Safe offers several legal services plans that help protect off-duty or retired officers who use force in self defense at home, on vacation or in certain other situations.

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By Laura Neitzel, Police1 BrandFocus Staff

Just because you’re off-duty or a retired officer doesn’t mean your cop instincts stop. But your legal protections might if you have to use lethal force in self-defense.

Would you know what to do if you suddenly went from being a hero to being a suspect? What if you faced an intruder in your home? Or on vacation?

In an environment where police officers have become targets and every use-of-force incident (no matter how justified) prompts a lawsuit, you would need vast resources to defend yourself and your family. You need someone to protect and defend you, even if your agency won’t.

One of the co-founders of CCW Safe knows this from experience. While an officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department, Mike Darter was involved in a lethal use-of-force incident when he and his partner came under fire from a suspect. He understands the sensations that extend from such an event – the tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, the “slowing down” of time, and the general confusion that can make recalling the event in the following hours fuzzy. He also understands what it’s like to navigate the aftermath of such an event, from the internal investigation to the media frenzy to defending against a civil lawsuit.

Even when the use of force is found to be justified – as it was in Darter’s case – that officer’s life and career can be forever changed. Darter feels fortunate that his police union helped guide him through the complex maze of events that followed and covered the legal and other costs associated with the investigation and the civil suit.

Officers helping officers

When he retired, Darter started thinking about what would happen if he had not had that support and what would happen if a similar experience happened to a retired or off-duty officer who uses force in self-defense – and the idea for CCW Safe was born. The CCW Safe model was designed by Darter and other former cops who understand the resources and investigative support required when an officer is involved in a critical use-of-force incident or when a deadly force response cannot be avoided.

CCW Safe offers legal services and guidance to protect off-duty and retired law enforcement officers using a legal use of force in response to life-threatening attacks at home, inside their vehicle, at any place where it is legal to carry a concealed weapon in public, or on premises where firearm possession is not illegal.

The Crisis Response Team

Police officers are used to being the brave hero in the story, but in the aftermath of a self-defense incident where they had to use lethal force, they are suddenly put in the position of being the suspect. They may know how to investigate murders, but not how to be the suspect in a homicide investigation.

“You’ll find yourself in a realm that you’re not familiar with,” said Stan Campbell, co-founder and chief operating officer of CCW Safe, who went through a similar ordeal to Darter’s.

That’s why CCW Safe’s crisis response team will respond to the location of their members for immediate assistance on the occasion of what is frequently the most stressful event in that officer’s entire life, providing invaluable peer support from other police officers who know what they are going through.

“It’s amazing how even officers, no matter how long you’ve worked, if you haven’t been in a shooting, you really don’t know what happens,” said Campbell. “Things happen to you inside your body. You have memory lapse and you really can’t put all the things together while you still have the adrenaline rush.”

Benefits of a CCW Safe plan

A self-defense shooting, even when justified, can have a traumatic effect on the lives of not just the officer involved but also their family. CCW Safe’s Protector Plan for active or retired law enforcement officers covers the member covered up to the level of a $500,000 bond for any legal use-of-force responses to life-threatening attacks while that officer is off duty. A spouse and other family members under 18 who are not legally prohibited from owning a firearm can also be covered for incidents occurring inside the family residence.

The CCW Safe HR218 Plan was developed specifically for active, retired and former law enforcement officers who meet the requirements for the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, also known as HR218. The HR218 complete coverage plan covers any criminal, civil or administrative legal action stemming from a use-of-force incident that happens in self-defense of an officer or defending the life of a third party in any place where it is legal to carry a concealed weapon in public. The HR218 plan additionally covers up to one million dollars bond and the same limit in civil liability for the officer.

“You’re allowed to carry cross-country in every state under the color of law, as long as you are an active officer per their guidelines or retired officer per the guidelines,” said Campbell.

The HR218 Plan covers officers in all states except New Jersey and Washington. In the state of New York, family members shall not be covered in the home due to state restrictions.

Plan benefits

The CCW Safe team will connect the member to highly vetted counsel on legal, investigative and evidentiary issues and cover the costs throughout the process until the case is resolved. This means that the officer doesn’t have to dip into their nest egg to pay costs for attorneys, expert witnesses or investigation fees or the costs of a trial – those are covered upfront.

CCW Safe even works to safeguard the Second Amendment rights of members by providing associated financial support and firearm replacement during trial if the defendant’s firearm is entered into evidence.

There can also be a loss of income while the officer is under investigation or on trial, and they or their family may need counseling to deal with the trauma or the effects of seeing the incident splashed across media. Then there are other things that need to be done and paid for that an officer might not think about, like cleaning up a family home-turned-crime scene. CCW Safe’s plans provide protection against loss of wages and covers costs such as crime-scene cleanup.

One key benefit of CCW Safe’s legal service plans for retired and off-duty police is that they are designed to protect the individual officer, whether that means working in cooperation with an officer’s union or department, or providing those services to officers who don’t have a union or who are retired.

CCW Safe plans won’t cover incidents involving force used against other family members, accidental discharges, or any force that is not in self-defense.

“If the officer is truly trying to defend the life of himself or another, they really should feel that somebody is in their corner,” said Campbell. “What happened to Mike pushed us toward making this the best that it could be. We’re doing everything that we can to make it successful for the officer to defend his or her actions and keep themselves and their families safe.”

Visit CCW Safe for more information.

Read next: A police officer’s experience with LEOSA carrying in NYC

Laura Neitzel is Director of Branded Content for Lexipol, where she produces written and multimedia branded content of relevance to a public safety audience, including law enforcement, fire, EMS and corrections. She holds degrees in English from the University of Texas and the University of North Texas, and has over 20 years’ experience writing and producing branded and educational content for nationally-recognized companies, government agencies, non-profits and advocacy organizations.