LEOSA now includes Florida correctional officers

Florida corrections officers are now permitted to carry concealed firearms nationwide, just as sworn law enforcement officers


By Kyle George

In October 2019, Florida Governor Ron Desantis signed into law changes that reclassify correctional officers’ rights when off duty, while also reflecting their status as professional criminal justice officers.

With these changes, sworn Florida corrections officers are now considered qualified law enforcement officers, and are allowed to carry concealed firearms nationwide, just as sworn law enforcement officers.

Since its inception in 2004, there has been debate regarding whether sworn correctional officers are included in the protections of LEOSA. (Photo/Warren Wilson)
Since its inception in 2004, there has been debate regarding whether sworn correctional officers are included in the protections of LEOSA. (Photo/Warren Wilson)

This article reviews some history of Florida laws and the changes, as well as offers some suggestions to help bring these changes to other states.

History of LEOSA

In 2004, Congress passed H.R.218, which allowed for law enforcement officers to conceal and carry firearms nationwide. This bill was appropriately called the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) and it permitted “a qualified law enforcement officer carrying photographic governmental agency identification to carry a concealed firearm, notwithstanding any State or local law.”

Florida Statute 790.052 previously allowed correctional officers to carry off duty within the state. The language did nothing, however, to clarify whether it was acceptable for any Florida officer to carry off duty in other states or to clarify what duties a corrections officer normally performs during duty hours that they could also replicate off duty.

Since its inception in 2004, there has been debate regarding whether sworn correctional officers are included in the protections of LEOSA. In fact, if you’re reading this article, you could probably go and ask two different coworkers and get two different answers. Luckily, in Florida, this debate has been decided.

Changes

In 2019, the Florida Senate took up H.B.7125 – Administration of Justice, an omnibus criminal justice reform with widely varying changes sought for the state criminal justice system. The final adopted bill is lengthy and, when signed by the Governor, it contained 389 pages.

Tucked somewhere in the middle, we find changes to the statute listed earlier, 790.052. In fact, the statute was completely struck and re-written. It now reads in part:

(b) All persons holding an active certification from the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission as a law enforcement officer or a correctional officer as defined in s. 943.10(1), (2), (6), (7), (8), or (9) meet the definition of “qualified law enforcement officer” in 18 U.S.C. s. 926B(c).”

That long agency name, the CJSTC, is the official state entity that ensures all of Florida’s criminal justice officers receive adequate training. It is similar to “POST” in some other states and is the only body in Florida that issues basic officer certificates.

How this change applies to Florida officers

18 U.S.C.s. 926B is the federal code for LEOSA and, as we can see from the above change, Florida-certified correctional officers are now classified as qualified law enforcement officers. This allows these officers who meet the qualifications of LEOSA to carry concealed nationwide just as our law enforcement partners have since 2004.

This change is not just for actively employed officers, but also includes retired correctional officers who meet the necessary requirements: 

(c) All persons who held an active certification from the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission as a law enforcement officer or correctional officer as defined in s. 943.10(1), (2), (6), (7), (8), or (9), while working for an employing agency, as defined in s. 943.10(4), but have separated from service under the conditions set forth in 18 U.S.C. s. 926C(c), meet the definition of “qualified retired law enforcement officer.”

Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act

There are several necessary requirements and qualifications to be compliant with LEOSA:

  1. Carry an agency identification card with a photo that specifically lists your job title.
  2. Be authorized by your agency to carry a firearm.
  3. Not be the subject of disciplinary action that could result in suspension or termination.
  4. Meet current agency standards of firearms qualifications.
  5. Must not be under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating or hallucinating drugs.
  6. Legally able to possess firearms and ammunition.

Restrictions

Now that we know the six basic requirements that must be met, are there restrictions? Yes. LEOSA does not limit the laws of any state that permit private persons or entities from restricting concealed carry on their private property. Just as you have the right to restrict what others do on your property, other private individuals and entities retain this same right.

LEOSA also does not limit the laws of any state that prohibit or restrict the possession of firearms or ammunition on any government property. This could include federal, state, or local government installations, bases, parks, offices, or buildings.

Read it for yourself. The full text of LEOSA can be found here, and the full text of LEOSA for retired officers can be found here.

What’s next?

Corrections is a vital and extremely dangerous job. This danger may present itself both inside and outside our institutions, and in many forms, including retaliation or random acts of violence. Having the ability to defend yourselves, your families and the public at large is mission-critical.

Now that Florida has changed its laws to qualify corrections officers for LEOSA, other states may need similar changes. Florida was able to get these protections in place for its corrections professionals through the efforts of elected state and local leaders, as well as those who contacted them. The Florida Senate has an online tool that allows you to input your address and find your elected leaders. As a citizen, conduct your own research to find out if this is in place in your state. As an agency official, your General Counsel, Chief of Staff, or simply your chain of command may be a better place to begin.

You may have heard in the past about someone contacting their congressperson/senator/assemblyperson without ever really thinking it would help. Some may still believe that to this day. However, in Florida, someone wrote, and someone else listened.

References

Congress.gov. H.R.218 – Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004.

The Florida Legislature. Carrying concealed firearms – off duty law enforcement officers, 2018.

The Florida Senate. HB7125 – Administration of justice, 2019.

The Florida Legislature. Carrying concealed firearms – off duty law enforcement officers, 2019. 

Cornell Legal Information Institute. 18 U.S. Code s. 926b, 2020.

Cornell Legal Information Institute. 18 U.S. Code s.926c, 2020.


About the author

Kyle George is a deputy sheriff in the Corrections Division of the St. Johns County, Florida Sheriff’s Office. He has been a state-certified correctional officer since attending the Florida Department of Corrections Academy in 2012 and has written several public safety-related implementation strategies as a student of criminal justice at Liberty University.

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