During a routine audit in May the department uncovered allegations that officers might be working off-duty when they were supposed to be working for the city. Now a department-wide audit of off-duty work practices is underway.
When Police Chief Jane Perlov was hired in the fall of 2001, one of her first orders of business was commissioning a study on the Raleigh Police Department. She made specific requests of the researchers. One of those was for them to look at the off-duty work policy.
The 74-page study came out in March of 2003. Since that time, most of the suggestions have been implemented, including district policing and upgrades in technology and training.
On pages 69 and 70 of the study, there are six suggestions to improve oversight of off-duty work. They were not adopted, but police spokesman Jim Sughrue said they were not ignored.
"The question of whether or not we've ignored this recommendation is interesting to me from the standpoint that if we had ignored it, we would not have done the audit. It's all linked together," said Sughrue.
Sughrue said the department has been working on the issue all along. They helped the city rewrite its ordinance relating to off-duty work, and actively lobbied for two of the suggestions in the report.
For example, they tried, but failed, to get the city or employers to pick up worker's compensation costs for officers doing off-duty work. This came up after officer David Powell was shot while working off-duty security at a bar in the summer of 2001.
They also tried to get a system where off-duty officers could sign in with the county's 911 center. This would allow the city to always know where officers are whether they are working on or off-duty. Managers at the 911 center said they are looking into this suggestion to see if they have the personnel and technology to implement it.
"On the particular point of off-duty (employment), we have made changes since that report was issued. We have tightened regulations," said Sughrue.
One reason that a lot of changes have not been made to the program in the past three years is that there has been a lot of resistance. It comes from city leaders who will have to pay for it and from officers who don't necessarily want the city involved in their off-duty business.
Police Officer Rick Armstrong heads the Raleigh Police Protective Association. His group has consistently fought against the major suggestion in the report -- allowing the city to run the off-duty work program.
"For the city to try to take it over, it would be extremely expensive for the city, and I don't think it would be beneficial for the officer or for the city," said Armstrong.
But, in light of the on-going investigation, it looks like at this point major changes to the program are inevitable.
"Obviously changes that will be made as a result of in through the course of the audit and through our other research will be broader changes than have taken place to date," said Sughrue.
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