"Do off-duty police officers have the same authority as on-duty police officers?" Yes, they do. However, most agencies encourage their off-duty officers to not directly intervene if they see a lower-level crime in progress (driving violations, thefts or minor property crimes, for example).

If off-duty officers see a low-level crime that doesn’t pose a danger to anyone, they should call 9-1-1 and be a professional witness for the responding officers. There’s a high level of risk for off-duty officers to make an arrest while not in uniform, because they don’t have their regular on-duty tools (patrol vehicle, radio, defensive tools, handcuffs).

BECHTOLOff-duty officers are not expected to directly put themselves in danger. However, if they see an incident that makes them believe someone is going to be seriously injured or killed, off-duty officers may take reasonable actions to minimize the threat. Should they decide to intervene, off-duty officers should have someone call 9-1-1 and give the dispatcher their full description so on-duty personnel don’t get them confused and think they are a threat.

Off-duty officers should display their badge/identification and loudly identify themselves as a police officer multiple times so that the suspect and all witnesses around know who they are.

Off-duty officers around the country have intervened and saved numerous lives, including incidents of mass shootings, vehicle crashes, fires and armed robberies.

— Officer Vaughn Bechtol

A Lake Oswego police officer answers readers' questions every week in this space. Send your questions to staff reporter Cliff Newell by calling 503 636-1281 Ext. 105 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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