Retired COs sue D.C. for right to carry firearms
Officers are arguing they should be included under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act
By C1 Staff
WASHINGTON — Four former corrections officers are suing the D.C. Department of Corrections for the ability to carry firearms for their own protection.
The Washington Times reports that the federal law the officers are arguing they should be included under is the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act (LEOSA), which only extends to retired or off-duty officers with “statutory powers of arrest” to allow them to respond to incidents that require the use of a firearm or to protect themselves from retaliation.
Attorneys for the officers wrote in the suit filed this summer said “the District of Columbia is improperly asserting that these individuals never qualified as law enforcement officers with arrest authority.”
Police officers, federal law enforcement officials, sheriff’s deputies and even Amtrak police qualify under the federal law as long as they meet other criteria such as retiring in good standing and keeping up firearms qualifications.
In response to email questions, corrections spokeswoman Sylvia Lane said that the city takes the position that D.C. laws “do not in fact accord corrections officers with law enforcement status and arrest authority.”
The group that lobbied for LEOSA, the National Fraternal Order of Police, takes issue with this stance, believing that the law is meant to include corrections officers.
The director of the nonprofit American Correctional Officer, Brian Dawke, believes the department is worried about liability issues.
The federal law stipulates that among the requirements for a government employee to be a qualified law enforcement officer, they must be “authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of, or the incarceration of any person for, any violation of law, and has statutory powers of arrest” and “authorized by the agency to carry a firearm.”
But the chairman of the District’s Fraternal Order of Police labor unit, Sgt. John Rosser, said the issue is simpler than that.
“We, too, can be threatened as a result of our careers. I believe we meet the criteria.”
One of the retired corrections officers in the lawsuit, Robert L. Smith, described an attack in 2012 that he believes may have been inmate retaliation. He was taking out the garbage behind his home when four men with guns opened fire on him.