Two of the largest police officer advocacy organizations are suing the NFL over a stadium handgun policy they claim violates a state law by infringing on the rights of off-duty police officers to carry their weapons.
On Tuesday, attorneys representing the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) and Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis filed a suit against the National Football League over the handgun policy, also known as the "Firearms and Weapons Policy," adopted in September.
The NFL policy states that firearms are strictly prohibited within all league facilities -- including offices, stadiums and practice facilities. The only exceptions to the policy are for law enforcement officers that are specifically assigned to work an NFL game or event as security or for private security contractors with valid licenses and firearms permits.
MPPOA and the largest non-affiliated law enforcement union in the state of Minnesota contend that the rule puts the public at an unnecessary risk by prohibiting off-duty, licensed police officers from keeping their weapons concealed inside an NFL stadium.
"By prohibiting licensed police officers from maintaining possession of their service weapon, the National Football League not only violates the law, but places the public and law enforcement at unnecessary risk while impairing the legal status of police officers, the very people willing to put their lives on the line to protect the public every day," Dennis Flaherty, executive director of MPPOA, claimed.
At the Metrodome, all police officers were allowed to bring concealed duty weapons into the stadium regardless of whether they were on- or off-duty. Neither the NFL nor the Minnesota Vikings reported an incident or concern during that stadium's 32-year history, the police groups allege.
GROUPS CLAIM CONCEAL AND CARRY RIGHTS VIOLATED
With the current policy in place, off-duty officers won't be able to bring in their weapons -- but the groups argue that Minnesota law specifically intended to allow licensed, off-duty police to bring their guns into private establishments like TCF Bank Stadium and the new Vikings stadium.
Current law requires anyone who possesses a pistol in a public place to have a permit, but police officers are exempted from that requirement. The union and MPPOA leaders say the NFL policy does not acknowledge the state's exemption and is therefore putting the public and officers in peril.
"While off-duty police officers with a weapon will be available to protect the public at a moment's notice, the ability to keep possession of their weapon gives them personal protection against any potential threat. This is critical authority that is granted under Minnesota statute," said John Delmonico, President of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.
The groups claim the current NFL policy would thwart an off-duty officer from responding to potential danger should it arise.