Chief: Allow off-duty officers to carry guns at events
Detroit Police Chief James Craig, in his first remarks regarding the mass shooting that left at least 58 dead in Las Vegas, expressed "concern" that the off-duty officers present at the Route 91 Harvest Festival were prohibited from carrying guns at the event.
Would it have made a difference, with a shooter shooting from more than 30 floors up? "Probably not," the chief admits.
That element of altitude allowed the shooter "an advantage," Craig said, because people couldn't quickly tell where the gunfire was coming from. By the time Las Vegas Police got to his hotel room, the gunman, identified by police as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, had already killed himself.
Still, Craig said, armed off-duty police are "force multipliers," who bring trained skill to situations such as mass shootings. In 2007, an off-duty cop, north of Salt Lake City, Utah, shot and killed a mall mass shooter who'd already killed five people.
At least one off-duty officer, a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, was killed in the shooting, and two others were hurt. Craig said he was aware of other off-duty officers who were in Vegas and at the event.
Asked which venues in southeast Michigan don't allow off-duty officers to carry, Craig cited only Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, which follows the NFL policy of prohibiting all weapons from the premises, regardless if an individual is an off-duty officer.
He suggested Major League Baseball takes a better approach. That organization allows off-duty cops to carry their weapons. MLB gives carrying off-duty officers color-coded wristbands that let ballpark staff know not to serve them alcohol. If a public safety threat is posed, the wristband also lets venue staff easily spot off-duty officers who are armed.
Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, also allows retired police to carry weapons. Off-duty or retired officers who choose to carry can only enter through one entrance, Gate D, and must declare themselves and sign in.
"This is our reality today," Craig said.
In 2015, the Fraternal Order of Police urged the NFL to change its policy, but the policy remains in place.
"We're going to ask the NFL to reconsider," Craig said. "What good are our off-duty officers if they're not armed?"
Craig also questioned whether anything could have been done at the hotel level. Las Vegas police say the suspect had a cache of weapons in his hotel room at Mandalay Bay.
Mass luggage screening, Craig admitted, might not work. But Craig suggested other red flags hotels might consider, like whether a guest has had the "Do Not Disturb" sign up for an extended period, or someone with an inordinate amount of luggage.
"This was planned for days," Craig said. "He was at the hotel for days."
That the shooter sought high ground, in addition to the number of guns he had, lead Craig to believe he was "well-trained."
Despite all the carnage left behind — at least 58 dead, 200 hurt, 500-plus requiring ambulance transport, Craig advised that "terrorists do terrorism to create fear," and urged Detroiters to go on living, unafraid — but vigilant.
"Live your life, enjoy your life, attend," Craig said.