Ask a trooper: Officers may remain in uniform while on personal business during breaksE-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your question to Duluth News Tribune, Attn: Ask the State Trooper, 424 W. First St., Duluth, MN 55802. You may remain anonymous.
Q: I observed an officer at a farm auction sale. He had his squad car parked at the sale entrance and was in full uniform. I asked someone why the officer was there. They said the officer brought lunch to his wife, who was a friend of the family. If he was doing personal business, should he not be in uniform with his squad car?
A: There is nothing I can do about complaints against other departments or officers, and the intent of this column is to answer legitimate questions that people might have about traffic safety and related laws. You can contact that department and lodge a complaint if you choose, but please read the rest of this before you decide what to do.
I will say that without regards to your specific example, please keep in mind that officers get breaks, and what we do on our breaks is of no concern to others. Officers on breaks are still subject to call, and I have worked many shifts without getting a break at all.
Out of necessity, virtually every officer at one time or another has to take care of some type of personal business while on duty. Some actually sign off (but stay in uniform) during their personal business and sign on again after they are done. When on duty and in uniform, most officers patrol and are subject to call no matter what they are doing and where they are. Officers also need to consider their department policies when taking breaks.
At the risk of sounding defensive, (and I am really not), I don’t see a legitimate complaint, and this is something I would personally not make a complaint about to a department. Over the years, I have often stopped for lunch with my family members because we are gone so much it is a real treat when I get to see them while on duty, and they feel the same. Many officers have doctor and dentist appointments and sign off but stay in uniform so they can get right back to work. I could list many examples, but I think you understand my point.
Thanks for asking, and good luck with your decision.
Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.