Off Duty Officer Caught Flying Armed

Former Boston police detective, Bruce Smith, was sentenced to a year's probation and a $7,500 fine for lying to federal officials so he could fly armed on a personal trip and let a friend avoid going through airport security.

Smith agreed to plead guilty to making false statements to the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security and unlawfully entering a secure airport area with the intent to evade security requirements.  In addition, Smith also agreed to resign from his sergeant detective position.

Smith's attorney said Smith didn't have an ulterior motive and was just visiting his parents. Prosecutors said that Smith flew with a weapon on over 28 personal trips from Logan International Airport.

The U.S. District Court Judge could have put Smith away for a decade on the airport security breach alone. His friend was not charged.

To fly armed, TSA requires law enforcement officers to pass a TSA flying armed training course and prove an operational need to have their sidearm accessible. BPD officers are required to be on official police business and have the permission of a supervisor.

Comments from Allen:
The purpose of this law, of course, is public safety.  Discharging a firearm at 30,000 feet can take down a passenger jet.  No one, not even an off-duty policeman, should be allowed to carry a pistol on a plane without proper training.  Even then, he can't do so unless it is necessary and his police department confirms it is necessary.

I have no problem with the sentence.  Under federal law, sentences are determined by a defendant's overall criminality score based on the particular offense, whether a weapon was involved, whether it was a crime of violence, the quantity of drugs involved (for drug offenses) and the prior criminal history, among other factors.

The most harsh part of this sentence was requiring the officer to quit his job; he had been with that department for 28 years, and now his career is gone.  That is not a part of standard sentencing in the federal courts.

In 2016 alone, Smith made over $250,000 for his police work, including overtime.  In investigating this case, the Department of Homeland Security noted that on one occasion, Smith apparently lied to his employer about attending an intelligence meeting at Boston police headquarters, when in fact he was on a trip to North Carolina.  The U.S. Attorneys apparently felt that there was enough in the record to convince them that this defendant should not be in a position of authority with a law enforcement agency.

There may also have been a tradeoff here in a plea bargain: quit your job, and you won't have to do any prison time.

This was a crime of laziness and stupidity, and it cost Mr. Smith millions of dollars in income, and quite possibly his pension as well.

The moral of this story?  Don't mess with the D.H.S.


Allen Browning is an attorney in Idaho Falls, Idaho who handles personal injury and criminal defense. He has over 30 years of experience and handled thousands of cases. Allen handles cases from all over Idaho. Call (208) 542-2700 to set up a free consultation if you are facing legal trouble or you have been involved in an accident.

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