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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  Editorials    >    Corrections Officers and the Right to Carry


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NOTE:  A somewhat different version of this piece originally in April of 2003. 
With the influx of gang activity and documented threats specifically against Corrections
Officers, we felt it was necessary to update and publish again.

September, 2004 

When you accept a law enforcement position you also accept certain risks. These come both on and off duty. This is one of the reasons that law officers are given the very rare privilege, especially in New Jersey, of carrying firearms when not working. While we all donít exercise this privilege all of the time, itís nice to be able to put on a weapon when going out with your family to an area where you just might run into persons with whom you have dealings during the performance of your duties.


Corrections officers, by far, have the most dealings with not just the criminally dangerous but the criminally insane of our society. They deal with them every day they go to work.  The ridiculous part of this is that they are the only group that is not, as a whole, permitted to carry weapons when off duty.

We have all run into bad guys when not working, and most of the time nothing happens. However, there are times where things can go bad. By New Jersey statute, corrections officers are allowed to carry weapons off duty, but in certain counties COís are prohibited from exercising this privilege.

The reason for this prohibition is unclear. Certainly, there has been no rash of incidents with armed, off-duty corrections officers or at least no more than those of police, sheriffs and other officers. If there is a particular officer that poses a threat if allowed to carry a weapon, he or she shouldnít be an officer, the same way with any other law enforcement agency. Get rid of them.

However, this prohibition probably has more to do with ďLetís not change the way something has always been.Ē Unfortunately, that rule is not made by someone working a pod, and that rule is just not fair and just not right.

We also live in an era of homeland security.  The passing of HR 218 (the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act) clearly shows how the Federal Government feels about having more armed officers on the streets. 

Additionally, there are more guns on the street than ever before. New Jersey is also beginning to see a growing presence of gangs. 

In the summer of 2004 corrections officials obtained a letter from a member of the Bloods gang.  It contained specific information as to their plans and activities.  It specifically said that members should take out one or two corrections officers.  This was a real letter.  Thanks to BM, we were able to obtain a copy and confirm its existence.  Bloods gang members are encouraging attacks on corrections officer, and this fact cannot be disputed.

To require officers to come to work and be exposed to these conditions without the benefit of being able to carry when off duty is incomprehensible!

We could go on and on with a laundry list of reasons why COís should be permitted to carry off duty, but we wonít.  You already know them.

NJLawman is simply a media outlet and not in a position to wage this fight.  This article will mean nothing if it is not acted upon. The only people who can act upon this are the corrections officers themselves. Several weeks from now this article will fade from interest, but this issue will remain.

The PBA and FOP locals must put their differences aside and work together. The best chance for change is if all voices are united. It canít be a dual fight being waged by separate unions, organizations, persons, and entities.  The PBA and FOP Presidents in all of the affected counties are urged to contact each other as soon as possible and schedule a meeting. Together they should team up and begin a crusade to correct this situation.

Undoubtedly, they will be able to find support from some local state senators and assemblymen looking for a cause. They are offered this website for any and all postings that may be needed. They could even simultaneously begin a petition drive. There is a lot of room here for creativity in waging this fight, as it has never yet been waged. wholeheartedly supports the right to carry for all corrections officers.  The county sheriffs and prosecutors who oppose this need to be barraged with letters, emails, and phone calls of those supporting this effort.


Reader Comments

September 16, 2004

I'm a corrections officer, and I was a victim of an attempted carjacking at gun point.  Had it not been for our right to carry off duty, I might not be alive to tell about it now.



September 15, 2004

I would like to address the Municipal Officer who talks about "Correction Officer driving 3:40". I know MANY Municipal, State and even a few Pros. that drive 4:50. I am currently a municipal police officer, a former county and state correction officer, and a former campus police office, all in the state of NJ. EVERY dept. I have worked for has a SMALL number of officer that are bad and should not be in Law Enforcement. Driving 3:40 or 4:50 has nothing to do with carrying a gun. When I was a CO I was allowed to carry on and off duty. I truly believe if any "PEACE OFFICER" should be allowed to carry a gun off duty its a CO. These men and women are inside the jails and prisons with these inmates 24/7, as a cop we spend 2-3 hours with them and never see them again. The inmates hear officers talking about other  officers, where they live....where they hang out....what type of car they drive. I have been away from corrections for almost 4 years now and I still see inmates when I am with my family.



September 15, 2004

This state is a joke sometimes. Soon I'm sure they will not want any LEO carrying in the state. Its these darn liberals I tell ya..



September 15, 2004

I feel that we should have a permit to carry out of the Academy. We are dealing with the worst of the worst is what we are told at all times. Yet they let us deal with the inmates who are gang members and if we are stand up cops we can't protect ourselves if they call one of there gang buddies or have a visit and see one of us in the visit hall and point us out and tell there buddy that's him kill him. So as we are walking to the parking lot late ate night we are shot. There is no way to protect ourselves, or any time at all.



September 15, 2004

Ahh Jersey.. I worked there as a CO in the 70's.. Left the state. I am now a Fed, carry a weapon and think all LEO should.  As to the Municipal Officer, When I worked there there were a lot of Municipal Officers I thought should not carry mace let alone a gun.. We all went to Academies.  Support your Brothers and Sisters.

          -A Fed


September 12, 2004

As stated in a previous posting, an off-duty county corrections officer was brutally stabbed a few weeks ago. The officer, who is recovering, works for a county that does not allow off-duty carry privileges. The two suspects were eventually caught a few days later. Had the officer had the right to carry, the situation may have ended without any injuries or incidents, except for the detention and arrest of the suspects.



September 12, 2004

Just another pathetic outdated NJDOC policy just like the highway guys, certain central trans trips and that project pride program going out without a weapon. It just makes no sense and maybe when we get a cop instead of a school teacher running the show things will change.



September 12, 2004

I am all for CO's having the right to carry; but along with that I am for corrections agencies revamping their hiring process.  All too often the background investigations conducted by theses agencies are too brief, perfunctory and inadequate.  Proper training is essential, of course, but so is proper selection of officers.  This is not intended as an insult to all CO's, there are many high quality officers working the pods, but there are also some driving 3-40 with warrants (I stop them all the time) and bad attitudes that I wouldn't want carrying weapons.

          -Municipal Officer


September 10, 2004

New Jersey State Correction officer supports all correction officers right carry off duty.  Public gets one more cop on the street.  NJDOC should change its policy and void the one year wait time to carry off duty.  Sixteen weeks of law enforcement residential training should allow NJ state correction Officers to carry after the academy. Stay alert stay alive!

          -NJSP Officer


September 10, 2004

Just about a week ago a corrections officer was out with some friends when a fight broke out and who ended up in the hospital with major stab wounds? the corrections officer who cannot carry off duty.  its insane!



September 9, 2004

Would we send our troops in Iraq into battle without weapons ??! I think not !! The CO's are engaged in their battles 24/7...Lets at least let them protect themselves !!!!

          -Bud Pry,
          -Retired San Diego Detective


September 9, 2004

Who are the county Sheriffs and prosecutors who oppose Corrections Officers carrying off-duty? Is their belief based on some wild stories of long ago, or the idea that only "real cops" should carry? SURPRISE - CO's ARE REAL COPS, who serve, are attacked, and whom we bury as REAL COPS!



September 6, 2004

This letter was sent to several newspapers by me...

Hello, I would like to get some information out to the public about a policy my department has that really affects officer safety. The NJDOC has a policy that states officer's can't carry off duty until they become Senior Correction Officer. The problem with that is you reach SCO one year after you graduate the academy. So for one year your working in the jails and wearing your uniform to work without the ability to protect yourself or your family while off-duty. We are treated differently than all other law enforcement. Police officers, County Correction officers etc. are allowed to carry off duty as soon as they graduate the academy. If you feel you can help, please let me know.

Thank you,

          -Senior Corrections Officer


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