Saturday, June 21, 2008

Councilors Brown & Gray Have A Good Idea

This might just be a first, but I find a proposal being offered by Councilors Vernon Brown and Monroe Gray to be a good idea. It also happens to be an idea that I suggested to Mayor Ballard this past March. It seeks to address a big scam going on with our police officers. Private security firms employ our police officers for off-duty security work. Those officers are often required to wear their police uniforms, use their city-owned police cruiser and other city-furnished equipment. These private security firms rake in millions using uniformed police officers and their city-owned equipment. The City gets absolutely nothing in exchange. Many other cities, including New York, Detroit and Atlanta, have turned the off-duty services of their police officers into a multi-million dollar revenue generator. That's exactly what Gray and Brown want to do here in the City of Indianapolis. Here's how the Star's Brendan O'Shaughnessy explains the councilors' idea:


Businesses that employ uniformed off-duty Indianapolis metropolitan police officers and city firefighters would have to pay a significant fee under a proposal sponsored by two firefighters on the City-County Council.

The plan would create a "Secondary Employment Unit" in the Public Safety Department that would assign uniformed officers to off-duty jobs.

Companies that want to hire such officers for jobs such as tavern security -- a common second job for police officers in places such as Broad Ripple -- would pay the city, which would pay the officers at a set rate per hour.

On top of the hourly salary, employers would have to pay the city $5 per hour for the use of a uniformed officer or $10 per hour if the work requires the use of a city-owned vehicle.

Councilor Brown notes several benefits to the plan: it helps the city offset the use of its police officers and equipment for off-duty work; it provides equal opportunity for all police officers to engage in off-duty work; and it will increase Mayor Ballard's control over the police department. Anyone with common sense would immediately understand the value of Brown's and Gray's proposal. Right? Well, guess again. Republican Councilor Ben Hunter, a police officer, opposes the plan and said the FOP will fight it as well. He claims officers will lose off-duty security work if the City controls it. Note that the union even shot down an effort by Mayor Peterson a couple of years ago to recover the fuel costs these off-duty police officers incur for the benefit of their private employment, although Hunter nows says he is prepared to offer a similar plan as proposed by Mayor Peterson.

Currently, these private security firms are controlled by people like former Marion Co. Sheriff Jack Cottey. As Brown states in the story, it's a very chummy process who gets the lucrative off-duty work. Even Chief Michael Spears works off-duty security for the Indianapolis Colts, which has created a huge conflict of interest for him in handling criminal matters involving Colts players and personnel. It is an outrage that these firms and the police officers are allowed to sock away big bucks using the city-furnished uniforms, equipment and fuel. You can bet that the private security firms will adjust their pricing structure to absorb these costs if the plan is implemented. It will not deny off-duty work opportunities to police officers overall as Hunter suggests; rather, it will provide equal opportunity to all police officers to do off-duty security work in uniform. It will not impact thoses officers who work security out of uniform and without police cruisers.

If Mayor Ballard and the Republican-controlled council is serious about efforts to relieve the burden on Marion County/Indianapolis taxpayers, they will implement this plan. Furthermore, it's about time for Mayor Ballard to demonstrate to the FOP that he is in charge of the police department, not the union. When I recommended this idea to Mayor Ballard in March, he immediately dismissed it. It sent a strong signal to me that he is unwilling to do anything to buck the FOP, even if it means saving millions for the taxpayers. For the record, the person who first suggested the idea to me is a hard-working and dedicated member of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Rank and file police officers know this is the right thing to do. It's the people making off like bandits at the taxpayers' expense who want to see this proposal die.

9 comments:

indyernie said...

On the surface this idea appears to have merit but I’m not convinced that this is a good idea. I know Hunter and I know that he is an honest guy who will do what is right on every issue.
As for Brown and Gray, history has shown us that anytime these two team up on a proposal we need to keep our eyes wide open.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

1) Brown and Gray are just trying to stick police in the eye. They know the policy won't affect them.

If they were so strong on this, why didn't they do it for eight years when the democrats ran the Council?

2) Just FYI, after the first issue, officers are required to buy their OWN uniforms and gear. (Except vehicle, weapon, radio.)

Advance Indiana said...

Actually, Ernie, I don't think Hunter or Plowman should be allowed to participate in this decision. As police officers, they have a conflict of interest which should call on them to recuse themselves from deliberating and voting on this issue.

Serpico said...

I think that centralizing the off duty security thru Human Resources could be a good idea, but this plan is just plain old retribution by Gray and Brown because their party is no longer in charge of the city.

Just how many firemen work part time in uniform? Zero! The fees are too high. Good government is not supposted to be in the business of making money and expanding in a bureucratic manner.

Come on, let's be realistic here. If you want to promote honest off duty employment, schedule it through HR, rotate where officers work to reduce corruption, and require employers to pay their employee payroll taxes (which they arent paying now). This plan risks opening up a lot of contract issues that could come back to bite the city.

It is obvious that this is just politics as usual.

True Conservative said...

If they are paid through the city then are they going to be paid overtime? Will they price the police out of the market? Officers are given a allowance to buy uniforms and gear.

Bart Lies said...

Sounds like a good idea. I still wonder about the half dozen or so IMPD cars that I'd see camped out around the old Coke plant in the months following its demise.

I wondered about who was paying for the gas while they sat there with the engine running all day and all night long knowing it was a 24/7 detail.

spooknp said...

The City gets absolutely nothing in exchange. You can bet that the private security firms will adjust their pricing structure to absorb these costs if the plan is implemented. It will not deny off-duty work opportunities to police officers overall as Hunter suggests; rather, it will provide equal opportunity to all police officers to do off-duty security work in uniform. It will not impact thoses officers who work security out of uniform and without police cruisers.

First: The city gets something out of this. They do not have to employee a certain number of cops in certain areas of the city, especially on busy weekends. A great example is the Broad Ripple Village and Wholesale District bar scenes. Despite your claims that no off-duty employement would be affected (how do you know this? Do you honestly think bar managers/owners, shop owners, etc.. are going to want to deal with _another_ layer of government red tape?), my guess is that some would be. Guess what, more cops will be needed to cover for those high run areas. The bar districts need about six more cops between the two of them on Friday and Saturday nights. Those off-duty officers have done plenty of work, as I have seen them in action with my own eyes. I personally would rather have the Vogue, Landsharks, and Have A Nice Day Cafe paying those cops out of their till than raising taxes to fund the over-time.

Second: You can't force the cops to work these jobs. If they get screwed over on this, wouldn't it be funny if they all told the city to stick it? Then the run loads would be so high, the city would be forced to offer over-time and would actually lose money by doing this. Don't worry, we can always raise taxes.

Third: Most law enforcement officers can work anywhere in state. So if hiring IMPD officers becomes too burdensome, just hire some Beech Grove, Speedway, Lawrence, etc. officers. Hell, we even have out-of-county officers working various off-duty gigs in the city.

Fourth: Unlike you, I have factual eyewitness accounts that making off-duty more troublesome will result in companies not caring to participate. They will just figure they can call 911, which means every taxpaying person or entity will end up paying, instead of a private individual or company. I worked at a retail office store years ago. Thieves were driving through the doors and stealing high end equipment within minuets (to beat the alarm). Our store manager was going to hire over-night security. There were levels already established back then, in the late 90s. X dollars for security. Y dollars for a uniformed police officer, no car (college cops, smaller town cops). Z dollars for a uniformed cop _and_ a marked police car. They ended up doing nothing, just stacking pallets of rem paper in hopes that would solve the problem. What you will likely see is a return to the security guard hiring. Why deal with the city and end up having to pay even more money, getting lazy officers, etc. etc.. It will be much cheaper to hire security and just tell them to dial 911. This will only increase the run load on district cars in certain areas, thus more over-time, more gas, etc.. The end is a net saving for the private business, a net tax increase for everyone else.

Fifth: The best thing to do is force the cops to pay for their own gas. Get some of the Sgts. or Lts. to work as normal run cars on various shifts. See what the average fuel usage is for typical patrol duties. Calculate a few extra miles for driving to training. Then calculate how much gas would be needed to drive that many miles. Cap the city gas at that. If they want to take their cars home, they pay the gas. If they want to use them working off-duty, fine, less money use taxpayers have to foot out and they pay their own gas. Off-duty jobs are basically paying from $20/hr. on the low end to $35/hr. on the high end.

We do not want the city involved in this. It will ruin the current off-duty status. There is more to this than just being able to pass the costs onto customers. The businesses will have no say on which officer is assigned. The first officer with an attitude, officer who wants to do nothing, etc., they stop hiring and just use 911.

Come on, let's be realistic here. If you want to promote honest off duty employment, schedule it through HR, rotate where officers work to reduce corruption, and require employers to pay their employee payroll taxes (which they arent paying now). This plan risks opening up a lot of contract issues that could come back to bite the city

OK. Your the owner/manager of a bar. You hire three or four cops on Friday and Saturday night. Your paying $30/hr. cash. Now the city comes in and demands you sign all sorts of legal forms (um, wonder what language they will try to put down for liability?). Then they tell you that the going rate will now be $50/hr. and you will have to keep records. You will get no say in which officers get assigned to your business. If you get the 250 lb. officer who can't breath after walking 10 feet, oh well. if you get the load who acts like a jerk, oh well. Yea, sure sounds like something I would like to put up with as an owner/manager. You know what, I think I will just pass on the extra security. If something happens, I will just call 911. Considering it is Friday or Saturday night in Broad Ripple and there are no longer any off-duty cops working, I hope north district remembers to add about six to ten officers working a tac shift from say 2100-0500.

True Conservative said...

If they want to save gas and improve policeing do what a friend of mine, who was an IPD officer for 14 years said. Roll down your windows, turn off your air conditioning and get out of your car and walk the neighborhoods. You will get to know the people you serve, you will cut down on crime as if youa re frinedly and get to know the people they will help you as they do not want criminals in their neighborhoods, you will improve your health and maybe do away with the 250 pound officers who are winded after 10 feet and you will save money.

indyernie said...

Unlike some posting here I've did some checking. The proposal only effects IMPD period.
Carmel, Greenwood, Cumberland, Clermont, Fortville, McCordsville and every other central Indiana police force can and will take over the security jobs if this proposal is passed.
The City County Council has no authority over other city and town departments. Police authority is state wide, it’s not just in the local towns or Counties. Outside officers will have free access to these jobs. This proposal also doesn‘t cover the Indy Park Rangers. This plan is flawed and will cause IMPD officers to lose the part-time jobs. Our police officers and their families will suffer.
Will these outside departments answer calls or write tickets while on off duty security details? I don't think so, our local police do so now.
A GOP plan is being prepared to recoup the costs to the city without developing a new department.
The Star chose not to report all of the facts.
I think that Brown and Gray leaked this story to the Star just to get it out of committee. I don't believe that they have support from their own caucus.