Working with Law Enforcement
The Practical Home Defense plan is based on a working relationship with Law Enforcement. You play a role and they play a role.
Law Enforcement cannot protect you during the initial stages of a threatening encounter. It’s up to you to evade and defend as the incident unfolds. Once you’re in a Safe Room, call 911 to have Law Enforcement dispatched to your location. The sooner you call, the sooner help will arrive.
Information to Convey to 911 in Priority Order
1. Your Address
This is the top priority. If you communicate nothing else, at least they’ll send help to your location. Get this across immediately.
2. Description of the Emergency
The way you describe the situation will determine the urgency of response. Make sure to express that your life is in danger and you need help right away. If you have fired your gun in self-defense, indicate that you have done so. Inform the dispatcher that you may be injured and ask for an ambulance to be dispatched.
3. Whether you are Armed
You need the responding officers to know that you’re armed. This helps avoid surprises and prepares officers to safely take control of the scene when they arrive.
4. Attacker Description (if known)
Providing the physical description of the attacker will help officers make decisions faster if they encounter the bad guy in or near your home. Describing the attacker also helps to establish that you are the potential victim of a crime rather than the criminal.
5. Family Members’ Description and Location
Anyone Law Enforcement encounters on-site is a potential threat. When they encounter someone matching the description of a “good guy,” it will help to avoid tense or dangerous confrontations.
If You Used Your Gun for Defense
Tell the dispatcher that you were attacked (or briefly describe the life-threatening circumstance) and fired in self-defense. Keep the dispatcher on the line and obey their instructions to work with responding Law Enforcement.
Take care to maintain the integrity of the scene. It is essential that all physical evidence remain undisturbed. Don’t touch or move anything.
When Law Enforcement Arrives
Expect Law Enforcement to issue commands to take control of the scene. When you make contact, put the phone down (but don’t hang up). Since you already notified the operator that you’re armed, the initial contact instructions from responding officers might include instructions about what to do with your gun. Don’t argue, delay, or offer suggestions. Just follow their instructions.
Don’t be surprised if the police frisk you or otherwise treat you as a suspect. Remember, the police are walking into an unknown situation. They need to quickly establish whether you pose a threat. They’re going to rely on established procedures rather than just take your word for it.
Aiding the Investigation (and when to remain silent)
If you fired your gun in self-defense, you will be interviewed by police. Contrary to popular advice to remain silent after a defensive shooting, it is in your best interest to communicate with Law Enforcement (within certain guidelines).
Your goal is to exit the criminal defense process as quickly as possible, preferably without being arrested or charged with a crime.
Remaining silent may leave the police without the information they need to determine that you acted appropriately, giving them no choice but to process you as a potential criminal. Once this occurs, it will be more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to be released. This hassle and potential risk to your freedom can often be avoided with limited and targeted communication.
What to Say
Be sure Law Enforcement understands that a crime was being perpetrated against you and is aware of the physical evidence that supports your claim. Point out evidence of forceful entry to your home, any weapons used by the attacker, and any injuries to yourself or family members.
What Not to Say
Due to the effects of adrenaline and stress, your memory of the event is unreliable. Avoid the temptation to discuss details of the event. Any inconsistencies between your memory and the physical evidence may do irreparable harm to your case.
There is a difference between pointing out basic facts and offering a play-by-play account of the event. Communicate the former, avoid the latter.
If questioned about the details of what happened, tell the investigating officers that you are willing to answer their questions and cooperate fully once you have a chance to recover from the event and your attorney is present.
If you are put into handcuffs and advised of your Miranda rights, remain silent until your attorney is present.
At your earliest opportunity after the defensive incident, call your lawyer (or ask someone to call your lawyer on your behalf) and get them to the scene. In addition to protecting your interests, your lawyer can serve as your liaison with Law Enforcement, which will be a welcome relief.
Practical Tip: If you don’t already have a lawyer, now is the time to establish a relationship with a good criminal defense attorney. Inquire about their ability to provide on-site assistance for a self-defense incident.
If you have trouble finding a lawyer that you’re comfortable with, you might consider investing in a self-defense insurance policy that provides legal assistance. Keep in mind, these services generally won’t dispatch a lawyer to your location in real-time, so a relationship with a local attorney is preferred.