Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nothing Has Really Changed At IMPD

A Star investigative story looking into off-duty work performed by IMPD officers confirms the changes the Ballard administration made in response to the OmniSource scandal were little more than cosmetic. In addition to the 51 officers barred from working at OmniSource, the story reveals that three officers are under investigation for scamming 8 Seconds Saloon by charging it for more off-duty officers than were actually working and another officer was reassigned after officers learned he was reassigning his work to fit his off-duty work at OmniSource. Here are some of the ongoing problems with IMPD's current police on off-duty work which the story discusses:

  • IMPD has little control over the number and types of off-duty jobs the police work to help keep conflicts of interest in check.
  • IMPD has no idea how much police are being paid for their off-duty work, allowing private sector employers to buy influence.
  • IMPD has no system for regulating the amount of hours police work in their off-duty jobs.
  • In some instances, a superior officer in the department is being supervised in his or her off-duty work by a subordinate officer, creating the potential for internal management conflicts.

The Star investigation found that 57%, or approximately 874 officers, work off-duty jobs. Officers have been given permission to work for more than 900 businesses, security companies and special events. Bars and nightclubs represent about 14% of the permits issued to permit officers to work off-duty jobs. The report notes that other cities, such as Columbus, Ohio and Tampa, require all off-duty work requests to be managed by the police department. Other cities also set the pay rates for the officers' off-duty work.

In a separate story, a proposal by City-County Councilor Vernon Brown would allow the City to collect fees from the private businesses and security companies that employ police for off-duty work to help offset the use of police-owned cars, equipment and uniforms for these part-time gigs. I've advocated this idea since Ballard took office as a way of off-setting the high costs of running the police department. A fee of $10 an hour, for example, could easily generate as much as $7 million a year in additional revenues. Despite the significant revenues at stake, the Ballard administration and the FOP oppose the measure. They pretend to believe that police officers will lose their off-duty work if the additional fee is imposed, something that hasn't happened in other major cities that have done it.

Unfortunately, the story in the Star really misses the mark on Brown's proposal. What the story fails to discuss is who owns the private security companies that employ many of IMPD's police officers in their off-duty work and what percentage of the work police do off-duty is performed through these companies as opposed to direct employment of the officers. For example, one of the major security companies is owned by former Marion Co. Sheriff Jack Cottey. The private security companies make a lot of money by marking up the price of the off-duty work of officers. It's the private security companies' profits and not the employment of off-duty officers that will likely suffer if the fees are imposed by the City. The FOP has a tight relationship with these security companies and is trying to protect them more than the integrity of the police department or the amount police are able to earn from part-time work. It's very telling that the Ballard administration would oppose fees for off-duty work that could put a real dent in the City's budget shortfall at the same time it is proposing a parking tax on downtown workers to raise $1.5 million for the financially-troubled CIB.

7 comments:

spooknp said...

They pretend to believe that police officers will lose their off-duty work if the additional fee is imposed, something that hasn't happened in other major cities that have done it.

IMPD will lose some off-duty gigs. There are other LE agencies that can be used that won't bill the extra costs to the companies. Secondly, a good % of these companies will likely stop hiring off-duty officers. I don't think it will be because of the pay issue, but more of who they get working for them. If your getting a different officer every weekend in Broad Ripple, some employers may not like that and just decide it isn't worth the hassle.

All I know is that if the downtown and Broad Ripple bar associations (or whoever is doing the hiring) stops hiring those officers, the districts are going to have to cover the incidents with on-duty beat officers. Those areas usually have heavy run volume Fri night into Sat. and then Sat. into Sunday. When I lived in Broad Ripple, I used to see at least six off-duty police working the area. I was happy that private companies (or maybe associations) were footing the bill instead of taxpayers.

To me, the city should already have rules in place to limit their expense.

#1: They give the officers a uniform allowance. If an officer is working so much, that they burn through their uniform allowance within a short time, it should be up to the officer to pay for additional needs out of their own pocket. If they don't, and they are wearing dirty, torn, etc. type clothing and equipment to work, they should face discipline charges.

#2: The idea of take home cars is something that could be dealt with by doing a month long study of just how much gas an officer needs on their shift and then driving too and from work. Cap the monthly allowance on the gas cards and officers will be required to pay for gas after that. Not being able to work because you used up all your gas allowance and it is only the 21st of the month wouldn't be an acceptable excuse.

I would like to see the liability waivers, if any, these other cities use. I know a lot of businesses are going to really look at these things. They may feel that the city is trying to put all the liability on the business, and thus they will just use 911 when they need something instead of hiring an officer to be right there for x number of hours on the weekend.

Lastly, some officers won't want to work certain over-time assignments. As it stands now, an IMPD officer is making $55K/year+take home care (worth $5K/year)+over-time here and there (court, special details, etc). So say they are walking out the roll call door making $65K/year. If your an individual making that kind of money and you still need a part-time job, you are living way above your means. Maybe if the officer had a family of a non-working wife and two kids, yea that kind of money wouldn't be that great, but I know officers who are married to spouses making anywhere from $35K-$70K. So depending on the lifestyle of these officers working off-duty, we could see a good portion just refuse to take the work.

It would be interesting to see what comes of this. The off-duty gigs that I know of pay anywhere from $20-$35/hour. Sometimes the officer gets the full amount paid for via a check from the company, sometimes they are working as independent contractors and the person who owns the security business takes a cut per hour. Given that, I don't know of any company paying over $35/hour for off-duty. If you go with the over-time + fee plan, the costs will be $49.66/hour (this is over-time rate for a 1st class officer plus the $10 hour fee). So businesses could see costs go up significantly...most likely will just pass on hiring off-duty and just use 911 and on-duty cars for any issues that arise.

Advance Indiana said...

I noticed the story mentioned nothing about the NIFS' case, which the City quietly settled to avoid damaging disclosures from discovery in that case. Curiously, IMPD didn't want to give up information about who was working off-duty at NIFS and which officers were working undercover at NIFS. Note that officers were also given free memberships at NIFS, which I'm sure they didn't declare as income.

Advance Indiana said...

Incidentally, NIFS paid $50 an hour for off-duty cops.

spooknp said...

Incidentally, NIFS paid $50 an hour for off-duty cops.

That is the highest off-duty pay I have ever heard of. Yes, some of the race details pay $100, and you may only work two hours, but then again depending on your intersection, you might work four hours.

If NIFS was paying that much, they only have themselves to blame. They should have been revoking memberships and stopping the pay-per-day fee where they allowed non-members to come in to use the facilities.

Seth M. Ward said...

#2: The idea of take home cars is something that could be dealt with by doing a month long study of just how much gas an officer needs on their shift and then driving too and from work. Cap the monthly allowance on the gas cards and officers will be required to pay for gas after that. Not being able to work because you used up all your gas allowance and it is only the 21st of the month wouldn't be an acceptable excuse.

I don't agree with your idea here. How can you determine how much gas a police car uses? What if a high speed chase occurs? What if an officer is detailed to escorting a prisoner back from a municipality outside of Marion Co.? There are to many variables in play here. Simple solution? Leave the car at the station. The majority of citizens drive their own vehicle to and from work. I don't think it's to much to ask our public servants to do the same.

spooknp said...

Simple solution? Leave the car at the station. The majority of citizens drive their own vehicle to and from work. I don't think it's to much to ask our public servants to do the same.

Are we going to increase their pay anymore? If I were a younger officer just starting out at IMPD, and I was willing to move, I would be looking at Columbus, OH PD. Why work for $55K/year and no take home vehicle when you can end up making $64K/year and no take home vehicle by moving three hours east on I-70?

Jon E. Easter said...

All this and the Mayor slinks away without comment again. Mayor McCheese would be more quotable and qualified.

I have no problem with take home cars for our police officers. The one that sits across the street from my house deters crime, I believe. Plus, I would hate to deny our public safety officers this perk. It's a pretty thankless job protecting us. The least we can do is pay for this benefit. Just my opinion.