A Las Vegas resident was detained by LVMPD Friday Sept. 14 while he was wearing a plate carrier (chest rig vest), his Glock, and an extra magazine. Per the citizen, YouTube username Pizzazz Picasso, stated he was detained and handcuffed. The citizen has not (as of yet) explained why he was out on the street with a plate carrier and a GoPro camera. Disclaimer: we do not have the full video, we do not have the bodycam video, and we do not have the 911 call and radio traffic.
There are two issues here:
Wearing a plate carrier in public will generate negative attention; something that any reasonably intelligent person should expect. Wearing a plate carrier in public is more than likely done deliberately to get attention from the public or the police. Because of today’s sad state of affairs, the average person is likely to think there is something dangerous or illegal afoot when they see someone wearing tactical gear for apparently no reason.
One’s belief of what is constitutionally permissible or what “should” be considered un-alarming by society does mean everyone else thinks the same way. The ideal is not reality. People tend to take away negative experiences more than they do positive ones. The discreet open carry in the grocery store that they probably didn’t even notice won’t stick in their memory as much as a guy on a street corner in a “flak jacket” arguing with a cop.
Open carry as a reasonable, normal, everyday practice is harmed when people tote rifles or wear unnecessary tactical kit and then become indignant when the police respond. People ignorant about the Second Amendment and open carry do not understand what we gun folks intrinsically understand. We might regard a plate carrier as “different strokes,” like wearing a kilt, but they see it as highly usual and an indication of danger.
If there is no reason to do it, don’t do it. Elsewhere I have discussed a similar issue of long-gun open carry protests and the problems they present. That being said, it does not excuse LVMPD from rising to the take the bait and illegally detaining someone.
Open carry is not a reason to be detained, even if it is weird or appears unethical. A call of a man wearing a plate carrier alone is not reasonable suspicion for a detention; perhaps the caller exaggerated Will's behavior. If the caller claimed Will was brandishing, police would have additional grounds, though wisely taken with a grain of salt, to effect a brief detention to establish if there is a crime.
We have to realize that the average person's opinion is the legal standard; not that of a well-informed cop or regular open carrier. Officers are obligated by most departments to contact the suspicious individual. Officers and departments must stop treating open carriers as suspicious persons without additional justification.
Ideally, if the caller is honest that the person is not doing anything dangerous or obviously illegal, the dispatcher should not put in a call for service and educate the citizen. Here’s how a citizen contact should go:
Officer: “Uh hi, we got a call. What’s going on?”
Citizen: “I’m just openly carrying and exercising my rights.”
Officer: “Okay cool. Take care.”
Citizen: “Thanks, have a nice day.”
Of course, if the cops roll up and you can immediately tell you’re going to get a ride up and down the justice shaft, it’s probably a good idea at that point to just shut up and think of your lawyer’s phone number.
Using the above cooperative model, the police did its due diligence and no one’s rights or feelings were hurt, except the ignorant citizen who called police. A really dangerous person would start running away or shooting at the police; they would not be compliant and talk about their rights.
The more you talk and the more you go round and round with the police, the more you appear like a troublemaker and the less like a freedom-loving citizen. Cops will not respect you for running your mouth making excuses, “explaining” things to them, or trying to argue. Trying to litigate your case on the street is something that criminals do and an officer will regard you with the same low opinion.
If you are doing nothing wrong and not provoking authorities, you will get more respect from police and better respect for your rights if you use them. These “confrontations” continue because we allow them, first by provoking them, then by sticking around and arguing them out. The Hiibel decision came about because Mr. Hiibel refused to “identify himself.” As a result, in Nevada all one has to do when detained by police is give their name, not an ID card. All Nevada officers should be aware of the Hiibel case.
By not jaw-jacking with officers, this already waste of time call becomes a bigger waste of their time. If all they get is “I’m exercising my rights by openly carrying,” and at most, a name, they will eventually be conditioned into that response in the future. You will not change the officer’s mind or his opinion of you by telling him how “badass” cops are, how you vote, or how much you secretly want them to like you.
Things like unnecessary tactical kit and long-gun carry are bad ambassadorship to the rest of the public. Even if it isn't actually trolling the police, that is what many see these instances as. Open carriers are portrayed poorly because there was no need to tote that rifle or wear that vest. An argumentative person decked out with tactical gear arguing that it's his right doesn't make a sympathetic character. We all remember Rosa Parks, not some angry teenage boy who yelled at the bus driver.
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West