Friday, April 13, 2007

Moonlighting Cops and Accountability

Well, it seems to be an Allegheny Whitefish floating casually by as if it wanted to blend into the scenery so you wouldn't notice it. When you do, though, you're taken aback because your gut reacts, "gross!" Last week, the PG reported, "City police set rates, system for moonlighting officers". The Trib reported, "City police detail rules for off-duty work".

We learn that the new system centralizes the process and sets up specific steps employers must take to request officers and that the bureau must follow in assigning them. From the PG:

Under the old system, officers were scheduled for off-duty security details either through the bureau or police-run private security networks set up by officers who acted as schedulers. That will continue, but now the bureau will use a computerized system to keep track of all details and which officers are working. Previously, supervisors didn't know which officers were working details or where.

The new system requires businesses to sign an application agreement and allows them to schedule officers through the bureau's Office of Special Events or to continue to use police schedulers they had before. Chief McDonald said 345 businesses have signed up to request officers through the special events office and pay them through the bureau's payroll system. The other 150 will continue to designate one active, full-time officer who will schedule other officers in exchange for a cut of their pay. Employers will have to pay the $3.85 surcharge for the time the schedulers spend in setting up the details.

The bureau will track all off-duty assignments and collect the fee for all of them.

From the Trib:
In the past, the police bureau has tracked about one-third of off-duty jobs. It will now track and charge a fee for all of them, McDonald said.

"We have a responsibility to know what our officers are doing," she said.

The scheduling officers must pay the $3.85 fee as well, she said. Only active, full-time officers are permitted to serve as schedulers for off-duty details, McDonald said. Before the rules took affect April 9, retired officers were allowed to do that.

Based on the 7,760 off-duty hours worked in October, McDonald said the city could make $29,876 a month from the $3.85 fee, or $358,512 a year.
Perhaps I'm missing something but there does not seem to be a mechanism to ensure that ALL assignments go through the computerized system and are assessed the $3.85 surcharge. Why isn't the new system to require ALL businesses to schedule through the Office of Special Events and be scheduled through the bureau? Why can businesses continue to use police schedulers they had before? Of course, all of the off-duty assignments that make it into the system will be assessed the surcharge. But will all of the assignments from 150 businesses scheduled by a designated officer get entered into the database? The new process seems unnecessarily complicated.. Remember that because of this system the city lost revenue in the past. This does seem to be an improved plan towards accountability but what guarantee do we have in the fidelity of this system and scheduling officers? I may be missing something here and I'm all ears if that is the case.

Another interesting statement in Boren's article:
The fee will feed the police union's legal defense fund and cover medical liability costs if an officer is hurt while working off duty.
What percentage of the fee will "feed" the police union's legal defense fund n@? That money does not go directly to the city. Furthermore, if it is collecting a fee why doesn't the police union, then, bear the burden of paying out in the event of a lawsuit, as in the Eggleton case?

If you missed it and are interested in reading The Admiral's extensive work on this topic, with many relevant links from around the burghosphere, it is presented in parts:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV


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