NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Should off-duty police officers be allowed to carry their guns at NFL games?
After last month’s Paris attacks that targeted, among other places, a soccer stadium, the Sergeants Benevolent Association in New York launched a Change.org petition asking the NFL to “change the policy that forbids on- and off-duty and retired law enforcement personnel from carrying firearms into NFL stadiums,” CBS2’s Sonia Rincon reported.
CBS2 asked football fans if that’s a good idea.
“Yes, absolutely,” said Sean Sigmond, of New York City. ” … It doesn’t matter if they’re on duty or off duty. They’re there to protect and serve.”
“Absolutely not,” said Eric Leban, of New York City. “They could drink too much just like anyone else, get excited at the game and do something stupid.”
The obvious concern is mixing guns and alcohol. But Eugene O’Donnell, professor of police science at John Jay College, says carrying a gun off duty is always optional.
“If they feel they shouldn’t carry the weapon ’cause they’re socializing, ’cause they’re spending time watching the game rather than want to spend time on public safety, they have the discretion to leave their weapons at home,” he said.
O’Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor, said the NYPD has a very strict policy about not carrying a weapon while drinking.
“And by and large, it’s been a rule that’s ironclad and has worked very well,” he said.
The NFL’s policy for is that only on-duty law enforcement working the game can carry weapons in the stadiums. It says off-duty officers “are not included in the on-site chain of command” and “the well-intentioned display or use of gun could have serious unintended and potentially tragic consequences.”
O’Donnell says training for specific stadiums could be an option, too.
“There should be some formalized arrangement, and, again, we should do everything we can to minimize the risks and to maximize the benefits,” he said.
The NFL is sticking with its policy for now, saying it consulted with a wide range of law enforcement when it came up with it. But law enforcement unions supporting the change say times have changed and terrorists have shown they want to target large groups of people.