Officers feel handcuffed by new off-duty work rules
Posted May 7, 2009
Under the new rules, businesses that hire off-duty officers to provide security or direct traffic must treat them as employees for tax purposes and pay them $35 an hour for a minimum of three hours, a higher rate than what some have paid. Businesses also will have to carry a $1 million liability insurance policy and a $500,000 workers compensation policy.
For officers, the rules cap their monthly off-duty work at 72 hours – they can exceed that if they're working during vacation time – and officers are barred from working during the six-hour period before they start a shift.
"I think every officer is extremely worried about (his or her) income," said an officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The officer said he and many of his colleagues need to work off-duty jobs to make ends meet. The rules will limit the amount of available off-duty work, he said, especially if businesses are scared off by the insurance requirements.
Ronnie Woodall, the owner of the Ambis 1 Nightclub, on Atlantic Avenue in Raleigh, said he likes working with Raleigh police, but he might have to hire off-duty officers from other law enforcement agencies if the new rules cut into his bottom line.
"From crowd control to the parking lot, I personally feel it's a necessity (to hire off-duty officers)," Woodall said.
The pay scale for current off-duty jobs will be grandfathered into the new policy, and businesses don't have to change to the $35-an-hour rate until 2012.
Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan said he would review the policy over time, but he said he believes the higher pay rate and the liability insurance requirements are needed to protect both businesses and officers.
"What I base the rate on is what would be a reasonable overtime rate for the officers. These are highly trained professionals. They are the best," Dolan said.
The mandatory rest period protects the public, he said.
"I want my officers to come to work, (and) I want them to be fresh. I don't want them to work at a bar until 3 in the morning and then start a 6 (a.m.) shift," he said.
The off-duty work rules resulted from a 2006 investigation into double-dipping by Raleigh officers. The department disciplined more than 100 officers for violating off-duty work policies, and two pleaded guilty to working outside jobs while on duty.