One of the most common questions I am asked by new investigators working bail fugitive recovery assignments is, “Should I carry a shotgun while attempting an apprehension?” It is certainly common to see law enforcement officers employ shotguns during arrests and other disturbances when working with a partner but a shotgun is still considered a secondary weapon to the handgun in law enforcement operations. Our work, of course, is very different altogether and a “long gun” is simply not a practical weapon for bail enforcement agents to carry into the field for the following reasons:
1) Weight: A shotgun is heavy and cumbersome which becomes an issue in foot chases, grappling with a hostile subject or while in cramped quarters searching for your fugitive.
2) Searches and Frisking: What do you do with your shotgun while having to climb into attics, basements, rooftops, fireplaces, crawl spaces, tunnels, etc? Where do you safely put your shotgun while conducting a pat down of the defendant while looking for weapons or contraband? Managing such a large weapon will not allow to keep your hands free in these situations.
3) Hand-to-hand Combat: What if the defendant decides to fight you during the apprehension? In most situations you will not be justified in shooting an unarmed assailant. What will you do with an assault rifle or shotgun say, “Excuse me, Mr. Fugitive, while I secure my shotgun and then we will fight?”
4) Legality: Another point to ponder is, “What do you do with the shotgun during a field interview?” Imagine that you develop a lead on your fugitive at a secondary residence; you knock on the door and the residents answer. You begin the interview, questioning them whether or not the defendant is home and if they know where he or she is hiding, and there you are holding this awesome, intimidating piece of firepower. How do you think an innocent third party is going to react to the presence of a shotgun? District Attorneys in some of the counties in which we often work have already told us that displaying a shotgun in this manner is a crime in itself and furthermore, We can be charged simply for resting a hand on our holstered sidearm during an interview. A sharp attorney will introduce this simple act into court as a “threatening and menacing gesture placing the people being questioned in severe fear of their lives” and you will have a lawsuit on your hands.
5) Liability: Shotguns are not designed for bail enforcement close quarter battle (CQB) operations. A Bail enforcement agent’s primary objective is to re-apprehend the defendant in the least confrontational, low profile manner as possible thereby eliminating or reducing the chances of civil liability. Presenting a shotgun in a house, apartment, mobile home, business or other location is overkill and completely reckless on the part of the bail recovery agent.
6) Lethality: A lot of fugitive recovery agents claim they carry “Less Than Lethal” (LTL) rounds in their shotguns, i.e., rubber slugs, bean bag rounds, pepper-balls, etc.; that may be all well and good but the single safety factor they are overlooking is the manufacturer’s warning regarding the safe distances required to discharge these rounds, which in most cases is no closer than 10 feet of the target.
In this author’s opinion, shotguns, rifles and other long guns, while “cool,” “awesome,” and intimidating are just not simply practical for civilian bail fugitive recovery operations due to safety, legal and liability reasons.
Ruffin Blaylock, the author of this article, is the principal of Spaniel Investigations, Inc in Decatur, Alabama, a full service investigative company offering a variety of services including fugitive recovery, executive protection, skip tracing and others intended to meet the needs of the legal and business communities.