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Resolving Issues with Police Chiefs

Keith G. Langer Oct. 6, 2022

It has always been my policy when dealing with firearms license issues to try and resolve them with the chief prior to filing a lawsuit. Sometimes, that is all which is needed; at the very least, the letter makes an excellent exhibit to present to the court.

I recently had two licensing issues resolved. The first was with a department known to be obstructionistic. In this case, it was holding up an application for over a year, demanding medical records it had no right to, based upon a willfully false assertion of law. My email to the licensing officer simply triggered him calling my client; not me. A subsequent letter to the chief had a similar response; the LO called the client - again, not me - and harangued the client at work for twenty minutes. That is exactly the behavior which caused the client to retain me.

Result: Lawsuit filed. Now the matter is beyond the PD's control; the city attorney had to respond.

Communications with the city attorney reiterated our refusal to provide the full medical records improperly demanded, but we would provide a document which gave the chief the specific information he needed - in return for the license application being approved and processed. It took some negotiations, but a meeting was set up.

Result: I provided the complete document, which said exactly what I promised the chief and counsel it would, the chief got to speak directly with the client and was, to my surprise, quite understanding of the 10-year old incident in question. When the meeting concluded, we were told the application would be approved and submitted. I noted we could have done this two months ago, had the PD bothered to respond to me, but the bottom line is that the meeting achieved the intended result.

The second meeting was due to my client rather foolishly riding his bike with a gun showing. The officer initially on the scene handled it in a less-than-entirely-professional manner, and my client over-reacted by not cooperating and declaring his rights. This led to everyone being defensive, and his license and gun being seized.

As with the prior matter, I wrote to the chief, laying out the case law on the subject of "open carry" in MA. Unlike the other department, this chief called me upon receipt of my letter. We scheduled a meeting.

The client and I met with the chief to listen to his position, and discuss the encounter generally. The client left with his license and gun, and, I believe, the Proverbial Clue regarding the foolishness of "open carry" and how to deal with police in such encounters. Mission accomplished.

The take-away:

First, you are unlikely to win an argument by the side of the road.

Second, shouting about your "rights" while not recognizing the responsibilities thereof is a failure in logic and tactics.

Third, Always contact the licensing officer, and then the chief, if needed - I suggest in writing, using Certified Mail/Return Receipt.

Always provide a means for an efficient resolution of the problem. If it works, you've saved your client time, money, and angst. If not - you've established yourself as the Reasonable Party in the court's eyes.