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.